So the other day I got my log in details for my online TAFE course, and with much excitement, I carefully entered everything in, to be granted access to an online page of virtual learning. It was a wonderful moment, followed by one that was less wonderful and more groan worthy. The dreaded, ‘introduce yourself’ question.
Is it just me, or is defining yourself a seemingly impossible task? How do you say who you are, or in this case, what you like to write and read? Because I like to write what I’m thinking at the time (no matter how random that may be), and read what I’m in the mood to read. I’ve chosen a great many books based on their cover and title, and not often a lot else. Which may not be the greatest way to introduce oneself to a class of writers.
There was one thing I failed to include in my vague little description of myself, which I noticed most others did; how long I had been writing. The majority of the group spoke of always having written, from the time of being little kids, to, well now, obviously. Others had only just stumbled upon it, but liked it nonetheless. That information is actually completely pointless; what struck was me how I never thought to say anything like that. And then I wondered why.
I remember growing up thinking I was very unartistic. I have three sisters and at least two of them can draw and paint well. I think the other can too, but I’ve never actually asked to be honest. I remember wanting so desperately, to be able to draw like them; I thought that such an amazing gift to have, but it wasn’t one I was blessed with. Not even in the slightest.
I tried. Oh I tried. I distinctly remembering one day being gifted a piece of the ‘good paper,’ (which was more card than anything else), and knowing I could not squander this opportunity. To the best of my ability, I set about drawing a horse. I used the lead pencil and erased wrong bits, working and working and working until it was perfect. And then I presented it to my mother with a huge sense of accomplishment. I distinctly remember her expression; it was not the amazed look of wonderment I was expecting of her, but more ‘that look.’ You know the one you give as a parent? The ‘just smile and make them think it’s amazing’ look.
Of course I never read it as that that day, and just thought she was distracted. Instead I carefully presented her with my drawing of a horse, and a poem written alongside it. Because, unbeknownst to me at that stage, I wrote.
Years later I came across this piece of artistry and I had to laugh. My brilliant horse was the opposite of brilliant. It looked like a pregnant aardvark with long legs. The only thing identifying it as a horse was the poem next to it, which actually wasn’t terrible for a kids piece of work. (It rhymed, so what else is important 😉 ). However it was glaringly obvious that I was not an ‘artist.’
Of course everyone tried to cajole me: “you are an artist! Being an artist is more than drawing. You’re musical!”
I giggle at that now, even though I took solace in it at the time. I tried being musical. I could read music, and played the clarinet (though not well), and I kept trying. But really I was much better at being a groupie for my actual musically talented friends. (Side note: said groupieness earned me the nickname Distortion Girl.)
What everyone, including me, seemed to miss, was that when it came to the arts, writing was the one area I actually did ok in. I never professed to be brilliant at it, and still don’t. But more than that, I never professed to even doing it, weirdly enough. Not even when a random piece of fiction went viral in year 12. (Viral then, meaning the print out got passed around for everyone to read. They didn’t have social media back in my day 🙂 ).
It appears that not much has changed since, as evidenced by my intro last week. While others are listing their experience and accomplishments, I was feeling kind of inferior, like ‘am I even eligible? I’m not actually an artist you know.’ And then it occurred to me, that the reason I never said any of that in my ‘introduction to Jess,’ is not that I’m less equipped; it’s just that it’s always seemed so normal, it hardly bears noting. It would be just the same as saying, “Hi, I’m Jess, and I’ve always had hands.”
It’s odd how sometimes I worry that I’m not good enough to be who I am, and other times I get all upset because I can’t be who I’m not. I can’t draw well, or play music, or create a sculpture. But I write. Constantly, impulsively, about anything and everything. In my head, on a computer or a random scrap of paper. Sometimes well, sometimes terribly, sometimes forgetting the difference between affect and effect.
But I write.
And so maybe I am an artist after all.
Do you ever dismiss the thing you love?
Can you draw?
Did you have a cool nickname like Distortion Girl?
Would it be totally tacky to just link to this post in my ‘about me’ thing for TAFE? 😉