ARTISTS ARE LIKE MOTHERS

  • The more I think of the dilemmas and dreams of artists, the more I realize that they are like mothers who nurture their creative products with their tears and smiles, sweat and blood and after delivering them, offer them to their families, communities and world at large as gifts of love. Creating poems and paintings, songs and plays, novels and films, like creating babies can be a painful process and artists like mothers have to experience labour pains but in the end they feel it was all worth it and in their mind ends justify the means.

                The process of creation like the process of procreation is quite mysterious and mystical as it is intimately connected with the dark recesses of the womb of the unconscious mind. The artists, like mothers, may not know till the last moment what they are going to deliver. It might be as much a surprise to them as to the whole world.

                The whole process of creation starts with a fascination. The way mothers fall in love with men, artists fall in love with ideas, images, concepts, stories, characters and philosophies. In some cases it might be just flirting and end after a while without giving birth to a baby or a creative product. In other cases the fascination and the intrigue keeps on growing and artists get emotionally involved and finally make love and get pregnant. Conceiving a creative project whether a novel, a play or a film is like conceiving a baby. Artists have to be adults and responsible to carry it full term. Those artists who are not mature cannot carry it to term and have creative miscarriages. I met many writers who have been writing a novel for years but are unable to finish it. They start the story but cannot complete it. In their cupboards they have dozens of incomplete manuscripts of books collecting the dust.

                When new and enthusiastic writers ask my opinion I ask them to aim for short pieces before they take on big projects. Completing a poem, a short story or an essay is easier than completing a play or a novel. To complete a creative project talent is not enough, it also demands discipline and many artists are lazy by nature. They love to day-dream and enjoy fantasizing more than hard work not realizing that being a successful artist it is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. Making love and getting pregnant is only the first step in delivering a baby. Nine months of pregnancy with all the ups and downs including morning sickness is part of the whole process. Many artists want to have babies but do not want to experience morning sickness and labour pains. They have a masculine rather than a feminine attitude towards pregnancy. They just want to make love and impregnate a woman and then come back after nine months and have the baby and give the baby his name to carry. They do not realize that the experience of having a baby is more intimate and fulfilling for a mother than a father. Artists, to become accomplished and successful artists, have to learn the discipline, patience, dedication and commitments of mothers. They also have to develop stamina of marathon runners as mothers not only give birth to babies but also look after them for fifteen to eighteen years and help them become independent and mature.

                I have met many artists who are happy as long as they are writing, acting, playing and creating to complete the project but once the project is complete and the novel is finished or shooting is over for the film and the baby is born they get depressed as if they have postpartum depression. They are insecure and worried that they may never experience another creative pregnancy and may never give birth to a masterpiece again. Those artists are fortunate who are able to dedicate their lives to art. They have given sacrifices of their family and professional lives to nurture art. They have reached a stage in their artistic careers where they do not worry about other people’s reactions. They feel confident and secure in their creative journey and have faith in their creative products. They have embraced the mystery and magic of the creative process and they enjoy as they create. They are least worried about money, fame and rewards. Every year when I watch Oscar awards on the television I am most curious about the artist who receives the life-time achievement award. One year it was given to Henry Fonda as he had dedicated his life to acting and had become a source of inspiration for hundreds of actors including his Oscar winning daughter Jane Fonda. Henry Fonda had never won an Oscar award for any of his films in spite of being nominated for many but that did not discourage him as he did not act for awards and rewards, he acted as he loved acting and when artists reach a stage when they love what they do then their creativity becomes their own reward. Many times they are remembered not for one work but for the body of work they create in their lifetime.

                I have also met many artists who after creating a number of masterpieces lost their interest and passion and dream and stopped creating. It seems as if they had reached a stage of creative menopause. They remain interesting people  but are no longer productive as artists. Many of them become mentors and professors and teach the next generation the art and science of creativity and inspire them with their knowledge, experience and wisdom. They still flirt with art but do not get pregnant and do not deliver original pieces of art. Sometimes they chose to retire as they are not able to go through the creative pregnancy, endure labour pains and enjoy the suffering. Creating, like love, is a mixed blessing in which suffering and ecstasy, become two sides of the same coin. Either artists, like lovers and mothers, have both or none. It is not possible to have a baby without labour pains. Artists are like mothers and mothers are like gods. Henry Miller once wrote “ Humans work and learn, gods create and play”. Artists dream of becoming gods but to become gods they have to pay the price and sacrifice many things in their lives. Once artists can offer those sacrifices and are able to create then they are able to entertain and enlighten us with their masterpieces, their gifts of love and we respect, enjoy and cherish them the way we cherish and adore mothers.

                                                                                                    Khalid Sohail

                                                                                                    July 2005

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