As sometimes happens, I read about myself recently in something written about somebody else. This time, I appeared in a review of an autobiography by a creative person.
The review covers “Crazy Brave” from noted native American poet Joy Harjo, who won the American Book Award for “In Mad Love and War.” What I read appears in the July/August edition of Smithsonian magazine.
Read it (the review, if not the book), if you get a chance. If you do, you will know me and others like me who have made the major error of not listening to our hearts when we chose our life’s work. It is especially poignant for me because it speaks right to my soul as I belatedly try to quell my writing and artistic urgings.
Like Harjo, I had clues about my great want in life as a child. When young, the poet “was encouraged to paint, draw and sing.” I loved to paint and used the tubes of oils and brushes my dad took up when he was a young man. An art course in high school and one in college only heightened my yearning.
While in high school, I also developed a keen interest and passion for creative writing, particularly poems and short stories. Someday, I thought, I would also like to write novels. In my senior year, I had a most inspiring English teacher, who pushed creativity above all else. “Cool.” I thought. “That’s it!”
So, instead of grabbing for that, I proceeded to talk myself out of it. I wanted to write and paint, and decided to go into journalism, be a reporter. I would be writing, I assured myself, although not writing creatively. Not as a hard-nosed reporter.
I would hone my skills and do my other writing – the writing I craved – some day. Painting would come at that time, too. Like the line in the CCR song, someday never came.
Harjo found herself pregnant as a teen and penniless, the review says. “… Her mother, who had ‘cleaned and cooked her way to decency,’ viewed her daughter’s life as ‘a mockery of her struggle.’
But “‘Crazy Brave'” has a hopeful trajectory” and hope for people like me. Like Harjo, my dream was deferred. She went on to become a leading poet. I didn’t explode, but have suffered through depression and moments of destructive anger, which by ignoring my passion, I now think, I only worsened. Now, at this late date, I am seeking to cut my losses.
Crazy Brave ” …. affirms and acclaims the artistic impulse. ‘If you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts,’ Harjo writes, ‘they will turn on you. Or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.’”