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confusions and clarity

December 17, 2015

It’s almost 1:30 a.m., and I’ve just finished watching another 2 hours of the extras on Disk 2 of Capturing Reality — clips of interviews with 38 documentarians, separated by subject matter. I think another hour or so remains.

When I was on the Inter-Library Loan website Wednesday night, I found I recognized some of the names as people I’ve seen speaking.


I’ve had some thoughts rolling around in my head for several days now, but I don’t have a sense of how to write about them in a way that does them justice. Maybe this is one of those topics I just have to stumble through, and it’ll make sense after I’ve explored several approaches consecutively.


I’ve had a sense of myself as an artist since I was a child.

But I wasn’t actively creating much of anything tangible for most of my life. I thought the issue was that I was ‘blocked’, and yeah, I probably was, but not in the obvious ways. Instead, I was hung up on all sorts of psychological issues — unresolved traumas that kept getting triggered; poor coping skills; addictive behaviors; undiagnosed autism and an anxiety disorder; possibly an eating disorder. Basically, all sorts of Real Life issues were exhausting every shred of emotional energy I possessed — there was simply nothing available to create with.

Even if I could have somehow discovered a tiny pool of energy to create with, I had no idea what I wanted to say, or why.

Inside me, everything was unstructured and chaotic.

= = =

My social difficulties were the most glaring problems, and I dealt with them every day. Early exposure to the idea of counseling, despite the social stigma still very much in evidence where I grew up, gave me hope that my problems maybe could be fixed. Or at least improved. Every chance I got, I went to counseling, with whomever. Ages 11, 13, 15–18, 23–24, parts of my 30s and 40s.

I did the ‘homework’ counseling requires. I thought, deeply, about many unfamiliar and uncomfortable things. I learned how to experiment with doing things differently in my personal life.

I read books on psychology, sociology, anthropology, organizational dynamics, power dynamics, personality theories like Myers-Briggs, family systems, trauma & PTSD & post-traumatic growth, cognitive neuroscience… Anything that might help me navigate the world better.

Just now, at 49, I think I’ve (laboriously) achieved the level of understanding human social dynamics that perhaps a neurotypical 15 year old has. There are still some things I expect I will never understand.

= = =

As I was healing, emotional energy was freed up in drips and drabs. Slowly, slowly, I began creating art.

Much much later, I also began writing creative nonfiction and poetry.

= = =

I’ve discovered I have things I want to use my art to express.

What I decidedly do not want to use my art for is to recap my childhood, adolescence, and the parts of my adulthood where I was still in contact with my family of origin (that is, through age 39).

Of course my life experiences will flavor my art. That’s fine and expected.

But I don’t want all my traumas, lingering bitterness and anger, etc., etc., to get in the way of stuff I would like to express for its own sake.

I don’t want to be Scorsese — in my 70s, writing about how all my movies have “really” been about my childhood in Queens in the 1940s, or my tormented relationship with my father, or whatever my personal issues would be. (He did go to therapy.)

Therapy is therapy. I think I’ve taken it as far as I can. Now I want to create art that’s not primarily about my fucking traumas (which I’m sick to my back teeth of even thinking about, never mind reliving).


Can I be interested enough in other people to interview them because I want to learn about them? And not have my interest “really” be about how I want them to acknowledge something fundamental about me as an individual? (Which they aren’t likely to do, see LW.)

If I could do that whole debacle over… I think I wouldn’t do it at all. It hurt me too much. And did he or N even care that it exists? Not so far as I could tell. Did anyone else care? Well, has anyone else even seen the video? I don’t think so.

What good did any of that effort produce? [Borne mostly by Spouse, I have to admit.]

= = =

I have one epic length poem mostly about my cousin the rapist, and a bit about my parents. Gramma’s in a poem or 2, as is Spouse. Various other family members make brief appearances.

But I never wanted poetry in particular to concentrate on issues with my family of origin. I’m sick of thinking about them, dealing with the crap associated with our history together.

Poetry, for me, is about totally different emotions than what my family of origin generally evokes in me.

Neither do I want to be some novelist who keeps writing the same novel about their torturous marriage, their alcoholism, their failed relationships, in every book. That’s what therapy is for!

= = =

Now that I’m integrating my shadow parts into the whole of me, now that I’m accepting all of what I am, do I have things to say/express with art that add something useful, interesting, unusual to the World?

Can I express joy? Delight? Wonder?

I already know I can express grief and loss and trauma.

Can I express the stuff that’s just as much truly me? How do I do that?

Complication: I don’t usually feel joy, delight, wonder when I’m around other human beings. But if I make art that other human beings aren’t reflected in, it seems to be less appealing to human beings.

My emotions… don’t seem to be universal in the sense that we are told that all human emotions are/must be.

I like going to movies (or watching them at home) primarily because they allow me to feel and express a wider palette of emotions than my ordinary human-social life fosters. But still, I often feel things I have never felt led to by someone else’s art.

I might feel joy or wonder beholding a Monet painting. And Monet may have hoped an audience would feel that (if he thought about that at all). But I think that’s a different category of intent than a filmmaker has, where the way the story is told, the framing, all the technical aspects lead inexorably to the audience feeling certain kinds of emotions, as directed.

I feel emotions I’ve never been led to by another artist. Can I express those emotions so that someone else feels them, when beholding my art? What if my emotions are in fact not universal? Could someone who hadn’t felt joy before, feel it upon seeing my art?


I don’t think any of these thoughts make any sense, but they insisted I had to express them before going to bed. Maybe sleeping on them will aid in clarity.

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