On Looking Like Nice Things Only

On Looking Like Nice Things Only

Back when I was founding my writing group, I made a logo. It was the silhouette of a head with two faces. One was serene and calm and the other was screaming. There was a split down the middle such the single head seemed to be in the process of splitting into two golden light spilled out the middle. I had spent quite a bit of time designing this logo and was pleased with how precisely I’d represented what writing felt like to me.

The writing group, called “The Predella Project” was supported by a local playwriting organization and when I showed it to my boss and mentor and she looked horrified. “No,” she said, “this looks so painful. Predella is light and good.”

I remember wondering who she’d been listening to to get this impression. Maybe I’d not talked specifically about the agony of splitting the self open to become an artist but certainly I’d said a lot of things about discipline, struggle, and hard work. I’ve embraced ease more now, but I’m pretty sure at that point in my life I had lot more to say about how writing is hard and painful than light or pleasant.

I had literally made the motto of the group “struggle is not an option, it’s a biological necessity” – a line talking about how learning changes your brain in physically painful ways borrowed from a book about the science of building expertise.

This would not be the last time that someone would give me that look that says “Oh, I thought you were all positive things and this was not the pure happiness I was hoping for from you” and I always end up wondering who they think they been talking to.

I found myself thinking about this today because I am try so stop hiding the things I really think and want to say and one thing I’m often trying to avoid is the disappointed look I get when I stop being a sweet looking surface people can project their ideal onto and start making my jokes about what’s actually wrong with everything.