Friday, 1 February 2013

What Does It Mean? And Does It Matter?

In the picture above, there is, according to the artist, a witch, a panda bear, a frog, a snowman, the moon, and a bird.

I know this not because I can see these things, not because they are completely obvious, but because I asked the artist as she painted what she was doing. I asked her what she was creating.

She is called Alice, and she is two years old. She has a good grasp of language, enough to make herself understood most of the time, and so I know she meant what she said when she told me the list of things that are supposed to be found in those squiggles and swirls and blobs.

She didn't care that I didn't get it. She didn't care that her picture of a witch didn't look the same as the picture on the front of the book she loves to look through at bedtime. What mattered was that it was her witch (and panda bear and frog and snowman and moon and bird), that she had painted it, and that she liked it. Loved it. She was so pleased with the picture that she wanted it framed and hung on the wall. My husband and I - proud parents - dutifully did as we were asked.

Alice immersed herself in this painting. She dived in, paintbrush(es) in hand(s) to create her masterpiece. She enjoyed every second of it. And she wasn't thinking about who was going to see it or who was going to like it. She wasn't worried whether anyone would 'get it' or not. She made this art because she wanted to, because it was a thing inside her needing to get out.

It made me think, this total and utter love of the craft, of the art, rather than the need to be understood. Actually doing the thing, painting this picture, was more important to her than anything at that particular moment.

I wondered... shouldn't it be like that with writing? Should we really write to a formula just so that we're 'got' and liked and praised?

Since seeing Alice's picture - seeing it every day as it's hanging on our living room wall - I've decided that I don't want to worry about that any more. I will write what I want to write, and I will write it for me. If someone else likes it, that's wonderful. I really would be over the moon, on cloud nine, and all the other cliches you can throw at me. It would be fabulous.

But if I work to fit someone else's mould, I think the only thing that will happen is that I will lose the love of writing. It won't be fun anymore. It won't be me.

So I've decided; I won't be upset or offended should anyone ever ask me what my writing means. I don't think it matters, as long as I know.

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