In Another's Words

"The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart - this you will build your life by, this you will become." James Allen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras always strikes me as the kind of event one should spend in New Orleans at least once in a lifetime. This year will be an especially fine festival I'm thinking, what with the Saints winning the Super Bowl on top of the usual causes for celebration. I've given some thought to making King Cake, Mardi Gras' best-loved dessert, to mark the occasion, but the very idea of working with yeast intimidates me. I also gave thought this Sunday past to again making Fortune Cookies for Chinese New Year, but that one got away from me, too. (Besides the fun of chosing those cool blurbs to put inside, fortune cookies are no harder to make than brownies.)

If I were keeping track, I would observe that a whole lot of things I consider doing get away from me. I've always been better at thinking of potential activities than I have been at actually initiating motion in a particular direction. When I was a much younger woman dating a lovely young college student with limited funds, we would sit in the living room of his parent's home with his sister (my best friend) and her beau (also penniless) and "have ideas" for amusements. I do not think it immodest to say that I was a superb player. Many of our ideas were absurd and/or foolish and came to nothing besides paroxysms of laughter, a desirable end in itself. A lengthy session of "having ideas" followed by a trip to the Dairy Queen - that was a date. It's amazing how stimulating moneylessness can be when the desire to carry on in spite of it is strong. One becomes very creative.

I make a distinction between being broke and being impoverished. Having no cash to blow is usually seen by the affected party as a temporary condition. Poverty on the other hand connotes a state of mind as well as a zero bank balance - having needs, but no money and no hope of getting any. Even I, with all my positive thinking, can find nothing desirable in that.

Needing money, on the other hand, can be a strong motivation for creativity. Tasha Tudor comes immediately to mind as an example. She became a very successful illustrator and children's book author only because, she says, as a single mom she was responsible to keep the wolf from the door. She only later became a lifestyle icon because she had made enough money to live as she pleased and the public found her "primitive" lifestyle engaging.

Another good example might be the Impressionist artist Claude Monet. We've just finished watching a great BBC mini-series about the Impressionists (Netflix) in which he is depicted as being absolutely compelled to paint for both artistic and financial reasons. One wonders if he would have had such a prodigious output if he didn't need the money.  Ditto Cezanne.  Manet, Degas, and Renoir all had money and although they painted a lot, I don't think they're in the same league as Monet and Cezanne productionwise. Very interesting group, the Impressionists.

I've read many writers who aren't afraid to admit that they wrote for the money first and foremost. Of course, artistic satisfaction and having something to say are part of the mix, but I'm thinking it's the need to support themselves that kept, and continues to keep, 99.9% of them at the typewriter/keyboard/whatever. I'm an exception, of course. I have no idea why I write, but it's obviously not for the money.

Now there's a question I can "have ideas" about. Let's see; it certainly can't be said that I write because I have anything important to say. I'm very careful not to say anything important. So, do I write because of some deep-seated, subconscious need to be heard?  Or perhaps because, for some obscure reason,others claim to derive enjoyment from it? Most likely, it's just for the pure selfish pleasure of pushing words around and hearing the music they make when they bump up against one another.       

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