This makes my heart hurt. In a good way. As I get older and my mind goes to all those I’m getting older places, what have I done?, etc., and because I work with a lot of young people, I think often about the idea of youthful optimism and I don’t remember really ever having anything you’d call that. The constant grinding mental state I remember (which hasn’t changed in any quantitative way but maybe I’ve made friends with it or learned to recognize it as inherent in the process of art-making) is one of uncertainty or more like fear that I wouldn’t be capable of making art that was authentic. It was always hard for me to imagine achieving that, let alone sustaining it for a lifetime. I was not optimistic, I was terrified.
To say something authentic, something TRUE, always seemed to me to be the whole thing, and a terrible burden. I was so afraid of making work that was false, of being a hack, a conman. That to me wasn’t just failure as an artist, it was criminal. I might not be so strident now, but I still believe that more or less. It’s the reason I would never stay in school, not until I was almost 50. I felt the encroaching sense that in school I was learning mostly how to talk about the work, not how to make it. (The fear I think came from a confidence that I WAS capable of faking it. I was always smart enough to do that, or I thought so anyway.)
I always felt like I had to start from the beginning every time to make sure every element was genuine, honest, accurate. My journals are filled with entries like, “A stage, 2 characters, one onstage, one off. They are having a conversation. (Figure out what the conversation is about.)”
To discover this tiny fragment of hope (and let’s be honest, it’s tiny) in my 1982 mind makes me want to hold my 21 year old artist self in my arms and cry.