It’s too late to be famous


still life for carbon 3a

When I was a child my life ambitions vacillated between wanting it to be discovered that I was a princess being raised by the wrong family, and simply being famous. At age 55 I am forced to admit that the former is untrue and it’s too late for the latter. Perhaps infamous is still doable, but famous requires work. Or at least the famous I wanted to be–the one where people buy your work and at least one piece is in a museum.

I have always been the creative type. I found out at a young age that being busy making something in my family meant I was left alone. I was the middle of 5 children, and alone time, as an introvert, was precious difficult to get and oh so necessary. I made clothes for my dolls, knitted this and that, later made clothes for myself, always always wrote–journal, poems, letters, stories. Later I quilted, embroidered, needlepointed, painted, and sketched inbetween learning small engine mechanics (my dad’s idea, not mine–but I had a talent for it) and photography. Making things has been something I am compelled to do, not something I elect to do in my spare time. I don’t have much choice in the matter and over the course of my life I have learned to measure my mental state by looking at my creativity, because, like everyone else, I am adept at deluding myself into thinking I am “fine” when I am not.

If I were to measure my worth based on sheer volume of crap I’ve made, then baby I’m a millionaire. Most people I know own–or at least have been given as I do not know the fate of objects once they pass from my hands–at least one thing I have made. My mother has multiple things, many of which perished in a house fire in 2004, so I have had to replenish her supply. As my mommy, she says she loves it all. I am not convinced it is worthy of such praise, but hey, it’s out of my garage so I’m thankful for that. My daughter also has a lot of stuff along with each of my siblings and many friends. And there’s still a shitload still in my house. I recently pitched a bunch of old canvases which I stupidly told some people about and they were horrified. I assure you, I kept the good stuff–all that was crap waiting to be painted over. Really.

Lately I have been feeling a great deal of time pressure. I don’t know how much time I have left to haul large format gear all around creation taking shots; how long I will have the energy to do it; whether I will feel as compelled to do it 2 years or 20 years hence. I don’t know if it will matter then, but it seems to now. I am as driven to create as I ever was but, when I was in my 30s I had loads of time. I don’t anymore. I am running out of years to put in the work required to Be Famous.

On the other hand, part of me doesn’t give a shit. When I was a kid I made stuff simply to make it. Later I made stuff so I could get what I wanted but either couldn’t find or couldn’t afford. Then I started making stuff to say something. That was a great place to be because I felt my work had meaning, if only to me. Now I have arrived at a place where what I have to say is a mystery even to me. I lay out the work I am compelled to make and I don’t know what I see. By this time in my life I should have settled on a style, a metaphor, a direction and instead I am more confused than ever.

I have to let go of the notion of being famous. It will come or it will not and neither should effect the work. Growing older means letting go of a lot of stuff: a svelte shape, good eyesight, career goals, friendships that no longer work, and yes, being famous. Instead, I need to embrace the place I am creatively. Perhaps my confusion is simply the cusp of a new creative output of which I yet know little. After all this time as a creative person you would think I had learned to trust the process and instead of worrying about where I find myself, be excited. I’m working on it. That’s all I can do.

4 thoughts on “It’s too late to be famous

  1. What is fame any way? It could be just luck, with little self esteem attached to it. I think it is over valued, often confused with notoriety, and imbued with cut throat competitiveness. Maybe all we can ever do is keep on doing our own thing.

  2. Fame is the wish of a child who knows no better, as it was with me. I think what I am really after is some kind of feeling that my work is appreciated and that the path I tread is neither meaningless nor futile. The truth is that I hear those assurances daily, but since they do not issue from me, I do not heed them.

  3. Fame is fleeting, but what else is fame but the assurance of others anyway? It is harder to take steps into the dark exploring confidently our own expression and experience of the world. It’s still nice to find allies and develop relationships helping us on the way.

  4. In the end we are all alone when it comes to creativity anyway. And perhaps life in general. The only person living in my head is me which makes doubt and confidence equally likely, equally strong. Allies are good. I consider you one of them.

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