Creative Process

What follows is from my journal and was written during composition of "Drawn of Dream"; the track titles came from this writing, which references the first 4 photographs accompanying it. It was inspired by an image that came to me while composing. It has to do with creativity and with untrusted and untrusting parts of myself. It feels like having a key. (Eventually I actually get around to discussing the image!) 

The idea that I have barricaded doors to parts of myself which I find unacceptable is illusion. There are no barricades. That is one reason keeping those parts isolated is so exhausting: I must constantly put up a fresh front that is only ever film thin. Less exhausting, yet no less harmful, is the perhaps more common practice of ignoring those parts, keeping my focus on other things.

Context gives things meaning. But we often provide our own contexts (as I do now) or have context provided by others from which to glean meaning from events or, as now, from pictures. The context for understanding a photograph of myself as a child is complex. It involves the photograph itself, my beliefs about myself, my struggles to understand myself, and things I have been told by others, among countless other things. I read many things into a photograph that may or may not be present. Focusing on the last identified source of context, I will write about the four photographs included here.

Tommy, June 3, 1964
The first photograph is of me on the day of my birth. My mother told me about me. She described me as strong, above all else.

Sailor Boy
And she told me my self-possessed strength was apparent from birth. I read that strength into that photograph, and into the second, for many years. I was proud of these pictures and convinced myself that they showed the true me.

Lost Little One
But look now at the third picture. That is me, too. I look unsure. I know I was likely excited, because I was opening my fabulous birthday present of a Hot Wheels set. Still, there is a lost little boy there looking at the camera. For years I felt shame looking at this photograph.

And the final picture. I mean, really, why didn't someone tell this boy he was gay?
Gayness Personified

There are many, many more pictures of me as a young child looking quite gentle than there are of me looking like the rough sailor boy that I wished to identify with. And for several years I was hyper-photogenic. Really gorgeous!

Later, though, self-consciousness sets in, and hence I was less photogenic. (As an aside, I must say that I do not believe the development of self-consciousness to be a necessary part of growing up any more than I believe bullying and projection by others to be a necessary part of growing up.) What was the self-consciousness about? I believe it was largely about trying to live up to my mother's projection of me as “strong”, with my own interpretations, based on opinions of countless others, of what exactly that might mean.

I had just stood up from a session of composing when the image came to me. A gentle and shy part of me, yearning to be heard, and constantly creative, is always trying to reach me. He is always suggesting ideas. But his shyness prevents repeating himself, and he speaks with a quiet voice, never coercive.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cowboy Tom is busy writing music. Boy, is he working hard, searching valiantly for ideas (and justification for those ideas). He is working so hard, and is so focused doing his good job, that he often takes no notice of the quiet suggestions being offered from a literally unknown source. When he does notice them, he, being fearful, snatches them quickly, not looking from where they come, generally unable to listen with continuity (although there have been a few blessed times when this has been possible).

The Quiet One
The quiet one does not care that he gets no credit. He only wants his ideas heard. He is grateful and takes no exception to Cowboy Tom's propensity to want to feel big. He quietly continues to suggest ideas, with the hope that another, however imperfectly translated, might make it out into the world.

There is much more to all of this, and it is all connected. In spite of my lack of physical violence to others, there is much harshness in my behavior. I used to attribute that harshness to an inevitable accompaniment to the “strong” person I thought I was supposed to be. (Understand that my reason for putting the word “strong” in quotes is to indicate that my idea of strength was so loaded and lopsided as to be ridiculous.) 

And in a sense, I can still point to the source of my harshness as being due to that “strength”. But it is not part and parcel of the strength with which I was born. I believe that in reality my harshness is likely due to the frustration of trying to be a caricature instead of a whole person.

Cowboy Tom is representative of the resultant harshness. While my naturally gentle nature has, for the most part, successfully drawn the line at committing physical violence against others, it has not stopped physical violence to myself, in pushing myself too hard during exercise, and using far too many muscles far too intensely to accomplish any physical task – even brushing my teeth!

I hope to make friends with the unknown source of my creativity, and to learn gentleness from him.