Comforting Art or Comfortable Art?

tumblr, sign, art, curiosity

The word creative is a word once heard rarely, now wildly thrown around. Artist. Creative.

I have previously discussed how we are glamorising failure more and more, missing the step between learning and comfort. Which is where I pause and say, there is no comfort in art.

What I mean by this, is that it is being frequently understood that creative people need reassurance, because the world is large and social media makes it appear even larger. It feels as though our art, the thing we seek comfort from, could be lost in a flurry of a Trump Twitterstorm. A repeated tweet on feeds we've all seen tells us to encourage the art we enjoy seeing, make the author know you dig their blog post or comment on a photographer’s latest work than simply like it. Give feedback; likes and dislikes, but criticism most importantly as no creative person is above improvement. Don't be scared to say your thoughts, because we want to hear it. 

In fact, it’s something they are wanting most; comments on improvements, which piece worked, their style – is it successful in projecting their meaning or are you getting lost under the swap between italics and the bold?

However, this does delve into a small tangent of an issue when concerning encouragement and your creative friends. And that is that not all of the time do they need your reassurance that their art is good. Sounds a little complicated, and a little contradictory, right? By this, I mean, you may feel that the encouragement is encouraging, but to them it can come across as disparaging. Not all of the time, but it can be sometimes. Good for too long, means their art has swirled itself into a ball of something I call ‘comfort art’. The art that makes you, the reader and recipient, comfortable. And the creative has settled down into a bundle of comfort art and lacked pushing themselves forward to grow and mature their art the way, deep down, they desire to do.

You can’t comfort those who do not wish to be comforted.

When I say this, I mean the language that renders the recipient of the conversation mute. The ‘don’t worry about it’ or the ‘don’t put yourself down’. These don’ts, they make the creative flutter down to a subdued nod. Their fight or internal struggle with creativity has been boiled down into a ‘don’t’. They no longer can attempt to solve an issue, like writer’s block, nor praise themselves when they exclaim they have written something of possible substance. They have been silenced by a ‘don’t’ masked as encouragement. It is illogical to tell someone not to put themselves down or not to worry about something; the worry will happen, as will the bouts of confidence. It's natural to feel a way if circumstances dictate.

For example, if I as a writer am feeling like what I am writing is rubbish, there is a strong suggestion I am indeed writing rubbish. I, as a person and a writer, am able to fully gauge exactly how well I am doing or how badly. By telling someone not to be of worry or of doubt, you are making them feel as though they cannot feel this way. Almost as if you are telling them off, like a teacher or a parent and thus, making these feelings feel something like a misdemeanour.

"Give feedback; likes and dislikes, but criticism most importantly as no creative person is above improvement."

Moreover, telling this specifically to a female creative, can be seen as not only disrespectful but also dismissive. Dismissive, by this I mean, running through the same vein as seeing an issue as trivial. Already oppressed by a patriarchal society, the last thing we should be doing as a collective is censoring and evaluating a woman’s emotions. There is no need to weigh up an issue as 'deserving' of your attention, fully. Or deserving of more than an easy 'don't worry about it!'. Not to simply glaze over an issue, the way we all can sometimes do. 

Especially in a field widely dominated by men. To say ‘don’t put yourself down’ is as if to say ‘don’t say that’. It is censoring. It makes it seem as though, for a continuous use of the previous example, I am rubbish at writing but ‘at least I am giving it a try’. And it sounds, and comes across, as condescending.

"By telling someone not to be of worry or of doubt, you are making them feel as though they cannot feel this way."

It makes it seem as though my confidence comes under question because I am a woman, not because I am a writer. With this, it puts forth the idea women are insecure, especially about their ‘hobbies’, thus making such a thing trivial. I must be insecure and so need a ‘girl boss pep talk’ when really, I am evaluating my work and realising I am making progress. Good progress. And it is more than ok for me to share this and say so.

"I am evaluating my work and realising I am making progress. Good progress. And it is more than ok for me to share this and say so."

I think at such a deeply politically fraught time, the use of which words we use is coming more and more under the question. The consideration we now put into what we say can be argued as being too PC, as people can no longer speak on certain subjects in fear in causing over offence, usually from a place lacking the education on whatever subject they might wish to chat about. And yes, that is completely understandable. Myself included, as I’ve found myself being educated over subjects I was previously unaware of.

"The creative has settled down into a bundle of comfort art and lacked pushing themselves forward to grow and mature their art the way, deep down, they desire to do."

However, let's be real. No one likes comforting words that sound a lot more like a dig. And we all know how insecurity can worm its way into our veins and make a home behind our lungs. It goes deep, especially in younger women. We’ve been told time and time again how to behave, how to look and how to simply be. There's no need to add more. Don't you think?

The last thing we need is our art to be condensed down into something below. This really is mainly about being aware of how the other person feels when you give out advice or pep talks; not about how good you feel giving them. Are they really pep talks, if you’re brushing over their issue with your assumption of their talents? Let them talk. Art isn’t easy.

And insecurity can be infectious, if a worry is dismissed.

Lou x

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