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Self-Expression Presupposes Having Something to Express

So my wife wrote a blog post that was honest, open, and amazingly fearless. She talks about the symbolism in her art, how it’s incredibly personal, and the ways that it has been and continues to be therapeutic for her. Every creator does this to some degree. Our lived experiences get categorized and organized. It’s our way of trying to make sense of a world that rarely makes sense. Self-expression presupposes having something to express, after all.

Katie’s post is 100% about Katie. She’s sharing her feelings, her past experiences, and the way she pours all of that into her art. It is her moment, on her website, to talk about her process, her life, and her creative needs. She is entitled to her soapbox now and again, as we all are.

Of course, right on cue, her mother responded to the blog post. This stands out, because she almost never comments or acknowledges anything Katie does.The gist of the message was basically that Katie has a week to respond to her mother or she’ll be written out of the will. In one fell swoop, her mother a) makes it about her, and b) verifies that their relationship is transactional. She doesn’t have Katie in the will because she loves her daughter unconditionally; Katie can be in the will if she properly genuflects. It is emotional blackmail, an attempt to use fear and guilt to get what she wants.

 

Creativity and Suffering

It’s telling that the message wasn’t “I read your blog post, let’s talk about what you said”. There was no refutation of what Katie wrote, because that would require an acknowledgement of Katie’s feelings. It was more along the lines of “well you obviously feel [a bunch of things Katie didn’t say, phrased in a way that paints her mother as the victim] and want nothing to do with me.” And of course, the kicker, unless you respond I’m writing you out of the will.

All of the past emotional blackmail, public shaming, and gaslighting is the reason Katie has so much to express. There’s so much that’s been bottled up, and for most of her life creating art has been the only way to let it out. The notion that withholding material possessions is going to put the genie back into the bottle, that it’s going to erase decades of hurt feelings, that it’s going to make Katie recant and say “no, I don’t actually feel this way, never mind”, is outright manipulation. As if stuff is ever more important than emotional well-being.

Neither Katie nor I have ever subscribed to the notion that a creator has to suffer for their art. I’ve always seen it as more akin to what Katie wrote in that post, that the pain exists and art, writing, music, performance, whatever creative endeavor we latch onto is how we cope with it. Most of us wish that, once we become creators, the suffering will cease. It rarely seems to work out that way.

Self-Expression Presupposes Having Something to Express

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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