I had a teacher who used to say he was an artist – a conceptual artist. I didn’t really know what he meant by that. He was a businessman and an entrepreneur. He invested in new businesses and went bankrupt doing it. Then he started all over again. You win some you lose some, he said – that’s how you learn. I admired his tenacity, his drive and his commitment to the capitalist system, a system that seemed rigged against me and that I poorly understood.
When I told him I wanted to be a writer he told me: great! He was teaching a class on how to start your own business and my idea was to start a desktop publishing business. I’d worked for an on-demand publishing company for two years and a community newspaper before that. At university I’d written one or two articles for the campus paper and my undergraduate degree was in literature. But really, I didn’t feel much confidence in my ability to make it alone as a writer or a publisher. A million and one businesses already exist, all of them claiming to be desktop publishers. What would make me any better?
I was really into podcasts at the time too. Back when most people didn’t really know what they were. I’ve always trusted audio recordings more than visual media. Maybe because my own body betrayed me at birth. Here I was, a boy but to the outside world a girl. Why trust your eyes when appearances lie? Radio, or podcasts, create an intimate space, a space all your own. Where your imagination comes alive, fills in the blanks, creates pictures more vivid and real than the finest, most colourful paintings. If you let it.
So I presented my business idea and I was voted most likely to succeed. Granted we were a small group of students. But still it felt good to be recognized for an idea. I wanted to succeed but I knew it was a stretch. I had very little money in the bank and I was struggling still with the repercussions of my father’s death the year before. Ultimately I decided it wasn’t time yet to go it alone. I needed to develop my sales skills and save some money. And before that I needed to get myself together emotionally, psychologically. I had work to do, so I found a job.
It’s almost seven years later now. And I realize that the spark I felt in that class I took is still with me; I would love to work for myself now more than ever before. But not as a desktop publisher. I don’t want to publish other people’s ideas, not yet. First, I want to develop my own ideas, and explore their value. I want to feel comfortable expressing them and have them inspire others to action. Because without the force of character to do that, I am in no position to help others express themselves.
Sometimes I’m scared of expressing what I think because I fear I am a bad person and that everyone will know that if I say what I think out loud. Thoughts have power. Words can hurt. I have judgments and criticisms I carry with me like a heavy load. My shoulders are tired, my back arched and in pain. I want to learn to stand tall again. Without judgement and with fierce hope. Only hope can spark the imagination.
So this is where I’ll start, with a blog. I will stand tall. I will create myself online. I believe we can all be artists if we let ourselves. I think we owe it to ourselves.