When you are in the business of the arts and you eat, breathe, and rarely sleep over your work, when does it become too personal? In my family circle, we call it "soul puke", where the artists' guts and blood are spilled out like a Pollock painting, for people to criticize, misinterpret, and muse over. However, as romantic as the thought is, most artists don't put themselves out there completely for an audience and most do care what others think of them. Even Pollock, who was known for his self-deprecating antics and critic-hatred, had his moments of solitary reflection and expression. Even Philip Johnson, who built a glass house as a statement of transparency in craftsmanship, couldn't bare to live in a place that lacked privacy.
Tonight, I caught myself saying, "It's just too personal", when someone close to me suggested I post an essay I recently wrote, to my blog. Yes it's true, there is writing out there that I selectively reveal and censor to more intimate relationships. I also have writing that I have never shown to a single soul; that will only emerge when I have left this life. (And for those who the work is dedicated to, it will be yet another world unveiled). But it's interesting how we classify what is worthy of another's eyes and what is left solely for our own. And what we will leave behind, when we can't hide it anymore?
I have written about sex, lust, love, violence, death, abuse, and insanity, but all in such a way, I have still managed to remove myself from the scene or subject matter. I am an onlooker looking back, looking forward, I am a character in disguise, but rarely am I in the present tense with my bathroom or bedroom door, wide open. I can derobe in an artist's studio and have my nakedness hung on a gallery wall, but how different it is for me, to have my honest words read by foreign lips and deciphered by strangers' minds.
I came across this book online, Sleeping With a Famous Poet, and immediately I thought, "What an allusion to so many meanings and I don't even have the faintest desire to read what it is about." All the questions that first popped into my head: Was he really that famous? Was it his fame she was attracted to? Or was it the novelty of him being a poet? Was he a good enough lover to write a book about him? Or was it about having an affair with another man? But even with all these unsolved questions, I still didn't care enough to read poem after poem, of personal bravado.
Currently, I am working on a novel of fiction. My main characters are already, pretty defined at this point in the process. The protagonist (a female) and the antagonist (a male), have an undeniable chemistry that leads the story along, with both tension and longing ( never once do they occupy a physical space together in the present tense.) The female character is very much tied to my own psyche and initially, when I began writing my manuscript, I had chosen to use the first-person perspective. But as I began to work the strings, as the creator of this woman, I realized it was becoming harder and harder for me to allow her to be something I wasn't. I had become too attached and couldn't see beyond my own perspective. That is when I made the conscious decision to change the "I's" to the "She's".
She still resembles me in some ways, but at least now I can acknowledge that she isn't me and stay somewhat emotionally detached. And that way, when people rip my manuscript apart (and it will happen) I am less defensive about the characters and more focused on the overall critique. I don't know what would be worse? Protesting, "No, she's not!" to a publisher. Or saying "It's really not that bad, is it?"
To find out more about Philip Johnson and his Glass House, go here: http://philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/