I spend a lot of time on Facebook.
Stripped of context, this is not necessarily a bad thing: who’s to say what “a lot” is, or what I’m spending that time doing, or whom (if anyone) I’m spending it with? No one! I am the boss of me, the captain of my own ship, the architect of my own, unique life.
But of course, there is no action without context, so I have to look at the way I use Facebook in the context of my entire life. And what I’ve found is that slowly, steadily, over the past however-many years, I’ve come to use Facebook as an escape or a crutch—an always-on source of adorable cat videos, “news,” and other crack-like distractions that made me feel vaguely like I was accomplishing something—instead of how I used to use it, as one of many ways to reach out and connect with interesting people to share interesting ideas. In moderation.
I could blame Our Difficult Modern Times and the necessity for comfort through cat videos, but the truth is that the world has always (i.e., long before cat videos) been difficult for someone at some time, and that the point of pain is to use it to create something else: wisdom, compassion, a deeper sense of humility. And, if one is an artist, art. Oh, and yeah, if you’re wondering, I was reminded of this on Facebook. Because for as earnest as you want to be, the universe never gives up a chance to remind you not to take yourself so darned seriously. * * * * * I am an artist. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are, too—quite possibly one of the performing variety. As a performer, I have turned various kinds of pain and suffering into all kinds of art: a two-person play with four people (and music!); a humorous talk about poop and God; a slew of poems and essays. As a lonely and alienated girl, I turned my pain into stories about the population of an intricate doll village and told them privately, to an audience of one. As a middle-aged smartass, I turned my frustration with life’s ongoing frustrations into songs about New Year’s resolutionsand internet weirdos, and shared them with everyone. As an incipient Old, I even turned my pain and suffering (and a whole lot of other experience) into a gigantic, 50-days-long party that raised $111,000 for charity and changed the course of my career. But that was almost three years ago, and with the exception of a tiny volley last year, I haven’t made anything since. Yes, I’ve worked diligently and consistently on some needed internal changes—turning pain into an understanding of pain, and a leading-out-of-pain—and sometimes, that’s what an artist has to do. Ultimately though, an artist makes art: out of suffering, out of frustration, out of joy, out of living. That is the strange and wonderful and messy and frustrating gift of devoting oneself to art. Few may see it, even fewer may like it, but make it, we must. However, there’s no reason we have to do it in isolation. One of the greatest lessons of the last few years has been the importance of community in bringing things to life. You can’t raise a barn or a cake or a child without the help of at least one village; what makes us think we can toil away on our lonesome, making art in individually-wrapped containers? It’s crazy, is what it is! We need the ideas, support, resources, and inspiration of each other to make stuff. So, hey: wanna join me in helping each other make stuff? * * * * * Here’s what I’m committing to: releasing a missive every day, for 100 days, to see what happens. We’ll call it a newsletter for starters, because that’s the platform I’m going to use to do it (I have a weakness for a well-crafted newsletter), but at some point I may move it to a platform like Tumblr or, yes, Facebook. We’ll call it “The Cathartic Artist”, because Jim MacLaren and Elizabeth Gilbert inspired it, with their lives and their observations, respectively, but at some point, it may find its “real” name. We’ll start with what we have, unadorned, and let it take shape as it sees fit. We’ll call what we’re doing a Project for now, because we may not each know where we want to place your energies, or what shape and form those placed energies will take, but if you already have a shape or form that’s been lurking in you, waiting to be born, by all means, go with it. If this speaks to you, sign up for the adventure, which will start on September 13th, and let’s help each other make art. And regardless of whether or not you decide to join me on this 100-day odyssey to who-knows-where, I wish you well in your travels: to gently twist a greeting from our friends, the Hindus, the artist in me salutes the artist in you. * * * BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: While I love a good self-help book as much as the next self-improvement junkie, I know that as an artist, I’m often as well-fed by the right novel as I am a piece of the most stunningly well-realized nonfiction. The Goldfinch, weighing in at a whopping 775 pages, is one of those novels. Author Donna Tartt draws a world populated with fascinating characters and their stories, leading them through a complex web of plots, while gently guiding her readers toward contemplating life’s greatest mysteries. It’s rich soil for a thinker, a lover, and especially, an actor. Highly recommended!