Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Beach Art and Novels: Driven to Create

I am trying to write a novel. The key word there is "trying." It's much more work than I thought it would be. It's mentally draining. It's frustrating. It's probably pointless. And the interesting thing is... it's not something I ever really wanted to do.

So... one might ask... why are you doing this? The answer, of course, is because I have to.

Maya Angelou once wrote, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And so it is with me.

I have been writing on and off for many years. I seem to have a knack for it. Other people seem to enjoy what I write. I have been paid to write. I have done it for free. And I have done it just because I felt like it.

Then came The Idea.

I had never previously written fiction. Not once. Never even imagined myself as a fiction writer. When I found inspiration for some sort of long form writing, it was usually a historical narrative or maybe a travelogue. I actually like doing research, especially if it involves going somewhere.

But then came The Idea.

During a vacation in the Virgin Islands, I noticed there were vestiges of facilities that dated back to World War II. And I became curious. So I did a bit of research. Somehow, I combined that with thoughts I had from spending time in the Bahamas, injected some of my personal turmoil from the music business and the world of commercial radio, along with other details just to make things interesting, and it became... The Idea.

Phrases, plot details and character descriptions began boiling inside my head. I daydreamed them. I went to sleep with them. I woke up with them. I thought of them in the car, at the beach, in the grocery store, at the hairstylist, at the bar, and, yes, even in the men's room.

The Idea had become the dreaded untold story inside me. And I knew it had to come out.

I'm trying.

But I now realize that some people are driven to create. It just happens. Whether they want it to or not.

I've often wondered about this when I see beach art. I am absolutely fascinated by it, for some reason. Bear in mind, my beach is pretty far off the beaten path. I have seen beach art that was at least a mile walk from the nearest parking space, and well beyond areas that most people frequent.

In some cases, the beach art is simple, and, obviously, relies on items that are already there (in many instances, trash). But, in other cases, it clearly took time, and thought. We're not talking about your basic sand castles. And there is usually more to it than just a passing desire to throw a few seashells into a pattern.

Some of them are really interesting. Some are even a bit creepy (the skeleton/hanging thing is my favorite).

Is there hidden symbolism involved? Things that are meaningful only to the creator?

The Oxford Dictionary defines art as "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

The implication is that artists make things so others may enjoy them. I'm not sure that's entirely true. At least, not for every artist.

Obviously, the beach artists know their efforts will be obliterated, sooner or later, by the wind or the sea or the passage of time. And, based on the relatively remote location, they aren't motivated by the hope that others will see and appreciate the results of their efforts.

They just... do it.

What is the internal force that drives them to create? Is this their untold story?

There is evidence that natural selection favors those with an innovative impulse - that thinking creatively might have been beneficial to pre-historic man when it came to finding ways to overcome the challenges presented by his environment.

But that doesn't really explain why he picked up bits of charcoal and pigments to scratch drawings on rocks and on the walls of caves he inhabited.

It's a curious thing - this urge to leave a part of ourselves somewhere, in some way, even if only temporarily. Clearly, there is something about the act of creating that is as important, or more important, than the creation itself.

Were the paintings in places like Altamira and Lascaux nothing more than ancient graffiti? The caveman equivalent of "Killroy Was Here?"

Is the creative impulse like an itch? If we don't scratch, it will drive us crazy. But if we do, it will go away for a while...?

When my novel was taking shape in my head, it almost drove me crazy. It has become an itch that has to be scratched. It's an untold story begging to be told, and, while I will certainly be pleased if others like the finished product, I think I'll be happy just to have it done.

Maybe the itch will go away for a while.

I guess I'll find out when I finish...