When we were kids, my cousins used to write and perform these elaborate theater productions in their back yard. Every kid in the neighborhood would be given some kind of role, from star to ticket taker to prop manager. A planter was their stage, a sheet their curtain, the parents their audience.
They held them all the time, but I only attended one. After that, my jealousy over their ability to make art stopped me from participating in it.
I was jealous they could write stories.
I was jealous they could get kids to perform their stories.
I was jealous of their parents’ permission, their props, their costumes, their ability to follow through with their plan.
I could not see past my jealousy of their artistry to find the artistry within me. And that jealousy seeped into my pores and became a belief that making art was for others, not me.
My love of art and creativity has been an ever-present force in my life, but I’ve always had to battle this belief that I don’t deserve to be an artist. Artists are more talented, have more resources, dress better, have weirder haircuts, are thinner, live in New York City, suffer more than I ever could. So for a long time, I lived in this world of supporting other people’s art instead of working on my own.
Then my brother died and art seemed to be all that mattered.
I wrote and painted and sang and danced and acted out and took photos and found any way I could to express the absolute utter pain I was in. It wasn’t great – in fact most of it was utter crap – but it helped.
You do not need to suffer to make art. But art is a great way to ease suffering.
At the beginning of 2018, I promised I was going to start working on my dream of making movies. I promised that 2018 was going to be my year to make unrealistic dreams a reality.
Then my nephew was diagnosed with cancer and the all too familiar feeling of fear and overwhelm came back into my life.
It’s hard to dream when you’re suffering.
I dropped out of my UCLA screenwriting class and accepted that this wasn’t my year to make a movie.
Then, three things happened:
- I went and saw A Wrinkle in Time with my nieces and halfway through my niece leaned over and said to me, “Aunt Lolo, I want to make movies with strong girls as the star.” I promised her we would make one as soon as we could afford the equipment.
- I came home and hopped on Twitter and saw this tweet from Ava DuVernay (the director of A Wrinkle in Time) reminding people that beautiful films can be made on your phone. (This tweet is also a good one for encouragement from her.)
- I remembered that my nieces got a stop-action Lego book for Christmas because we all dreamt of making movies.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel the need to wait anymore. I realized I had everything I needed already.
The next day, my nieces and I made a movie. It’s called Construction Zone, and you can watch it here. 🙂
The credits are longer than the movie itself, it’s never going to win any awards, and there are flaws throughout the whole thing.
But we made a movie and so can you!
You can make a crappy movie. You can write a shitty novel. You can paint a picture that looks nothing like what you were trying to capture. You can sing off-key. You can play the worst rendition of chopsticks on the piano that’s ever been heard.
You do not have to make perfect art to be an artist. You don’t even have to make decent art to be an artist. In fact, making crap is part of the process. That’s why:
You have complete and total permission to make crappy art.
This week, my nieces and I have decided to try to make some more crappy art. I think we’re going to go for a Lego Guardians of the Galaxy stop action adventure.
What crappy art are you going to make this week?
Reply to this email and let me know.
With love and craptastic art adventures,
P.S. If I’m slow to respond to your replies, please know it’s not a reflection on my enthusiasm to hear from you. Cancer is a hell of a time suck and I’m running behind on emails, but I love love love conversing with you. <3
This week’s writerly resources (make that money honey!):
- Romance and women’s fiction don’t get enough credit, so I’m excited to see 2Elizabeths is hosting a short fiction or poetry contest with an award of $1000!
- The Black Hogwarts Online Workshop is open to writers looking for an intensive online poetry workshop with a magical theme. Don’t wait for your owl, apply now!
- The Soze NYC Call for Public Art is an opportunity for formerly incarcerated artists and artists impacted by the criminal justice system.
- Proposals for the 2019 AWP Conference (held in Portland, Oregon this year) are due May 1.
- Interested in working in publishing? The Los Angeles Review of Books / USC Publishing Workshop isaccepting applications for summer 2018. Full and partial scholarships available.
Got a resource you want to share with others? Email me at email@example.com and let me know.
What we’re loving right now (books, blogs, art, etc.):
- I’m currently reading Dialogue by Robert McKee (very white male centered but also it has great advice and has challenged me to be a better writer) and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (a YA book written by and about a woman of color: “In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else.”).
- Hadassah Damien is hosting an event to encourage people to read books about money. It’s live in Brooklyn, but you can join from anywhere. Also check out our free workshop on making money as a freelance writer.
- “She was a joy to be around, if you could avoid the stuff.” Reader Susan Fekete wrote a beautiful, intimate, loving piece by Susan Fekete on Longreads about her relationship with her hoarder mother.
- “My mainstream debut novel, started out as a creative writing exercise about something I didn’t understand. It was supposed to be a simple story about a piano, but instead of finger exercises, it turned into a symphony.” Reader Kate Campbell shared 7 things about herself.
- “I am reading Morgan Jerkin’s debut essay collection This Will Be My Undoing, which I highly recommend.” – Reader Mahin Ibrahim, mahinibrahim.com
Got a book or article you’re loving right now? Created something you’d like to share with other readers? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll include your recommendation in a future newsletter. Also, let’s connect on Goodreads!
Please note: some of these links above may be affiliate links, meaning I get a % if you make a purchase on the site it links to. Affiliate linking helps keep my newsletter and blog going, but I promise to only suggest things I love.