Telling Family Secrets

Beautiful Secrets

Julia Cameron says that ‘the act of making art exposes a society to itself: like telling a family secret.’1 And the darker the family/society secret the more vigorous its efforts at squashing genuine art. Diversionary ‘art’ is what they want. But what if the family/society secret is beautiful? We don’t know what to do with it. It will be laughed at.

Why? Because we live in a society full of blocked-creatives. And ‘most blocked creatives have an active addiction to anxiety’2, which ‘manifests as an addiction to fantasy’.

Though to be fair on fantasy writers, most of us (me included) love fantasy. So what’s the issue. The issue is probably what Steven King was talking about when he told writers to ‘stay off the glass teat’. Aka, the amusement screen.

And there’s a voracious appetite for that, which is why if you create good ‘diversionary art’ for the screen you might even get to be as famous as the Playstation. But what you need to weigh up here is the price- tag of your diversionary art.

Cameron says ‘The cost of a thing is the amount of life required to be exchanged for it.’3 In that case a Playstation (for some) would have to be valued at the price of a human soul. But there’s another way of thinking about this. If you are well down the road of diversionary art for example, the price might be the cost of abandoning the habits of your ‘blocked-creative’ addictions. Those things you’ve been doing as a substitute for genuine creative work.

If you embark on this journey try to be patient with your friends because ‘expecting your blocked friends to celebrate your recovery of creativity is like expecting your friends at the bar to celebrate your sobriety.’4 For you are now a threat. Which is why Cameron says in another place, ‘In an artistic career, thinking about the odds (of success) is a drink of emotional poison.’5

Lastly, beware emotional incest. Cameron explains that ‘Teachers, editors and mentors are often authority or parent figures for a young artist. There is a sacred trust inherent in the bond between teacher and student. This trust when violated has the impact of a parental violation. What we are talking about here is emotional incest.’6 Beware the ‘candid friend’ (GK Chesterton says), ‘He is not candid … when he says, “ I am sorry to say it, but we are all doomed” he is not sorry at all.’ He has a vested interest at heart.

One more last thing. People, their families and societies are never quite as wicked or as good as we tend to make them out to be. There’s always lots of grey, and grey can be the first colour of dawn if you let it. What if for example, when you plumb the depths of your tragic family/society story you find astonishing treasures down there underneath the dirt?

  1. 1  Cameron J. The Artist’s Way p. 67 Souvenir Press 1994
  2. 2  Ibid 143
  3. 3  Ibid – quoting Thoreau p.68
  4. 4  Ibid p.43
  5. 5  Ibid p.142
  6. 6  Ibid p. 130

 

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