WAGES OF ART

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They say the true measure of a man isn’t what he reveals to the world but what he keeps from it. Secrets are heavy things to bear and those who carry many of them wield stronger and older souls. Framed between their cheekbones, these are people whose faces are a jar of mystery. These are people who are perceivably ‘in control’. People who have mastered the nous of letting people know only what they need to know. Going back to their graves shrouded in their dirty laundry.

But in the realm of art laconic people are gaunt and morbid characters. Caginess doesn’t hold. Creative pursuits are founded on openness. The willingness to let the sun beam through your otherwise clouded chest. The best creations come naked. From human beings at birth to the nude Da Vinci code.

We’ve all seen memes of people wishing Adele another horrendous heartbreak. Perhaps because her piece de resistance came from the acceptance of her deepest pains or joys for that matter.

Such is the cost of creativity and you can never pay enough for it. To art there is no recompense. Any monetary form of value attached, is a mere appreciation.

In a serendipitous turn of events, the course of destiny would also lead me down this very road.

The road not taken; leading a life of letting the world see beyond my exterior in the name of ingenuity.  

The question is how I got here. How do you wake up and decide you are a ‘creative’? What is that anyway? Is it an actual job and if it is, what are the terms? What do creatives look like in the first place? Do they prefer their steak medium rare or well done? Are they early birds or night owls? In any case do I not come from a long line of paper pushers and sharecroppers? 

These are valid questions to which I have no answers. What I have is a perspective. My perspective. My claim to being a ‘creative’. For what it’s worth, here’s my take.

You establish you have a gift. Not by yourself but through the encouragement of others. You write an essay for an internship application and your mentor skims through it and says,

 “I think you can write.”

You say, “Huh? “

In the quiet of your mind you wonder if that’s supposed to be an insult. If you are going to call me illiterate, be courteous enough not be subliminal about it.

He bangs on, “I said I think you can write.”

You riposte sarcastically, “You mean the letters of the alphabet? Yeah I can write those. The twenty six of them. Soup to nuts”

He’s adamant, “There’s something there pal, explore it you never know. I think you can make a tremendous writer.”

That conversation ends there. The sun sets, goats go back to their pen and chicken back to their coop. It’s enough for the day. You go home and do your best to dismiss the gossip you just imbibed.

Mentors think they know everything; latter day prophets. What does he know about me? Me!? Writer? No way. Maybe he should have read the essay in my handwriting then perhaps a penny for his thoughts. Or maybe he’s just dumb and I need a new mentor who doesn’t throw around words carelessly. Our mentor-mentee relationship ends here. For every season there is a reason. It’s time to shop for a better mentor, to clean house. One whose eyes actually see straight and whose assessments of me aren’t off the rails. Unlike that deluded bozo.

But I guess that’s how it is with compliments and light bulb moments. We are disbelieving of them but they make a home of our hearts. They stubbornly linger there and we happily entertain them. Partly because we want to believe them to be true. It is always refreshing to believe we are more than we are. And when people plant such ideas in our heads we do our best to water them. We may be reluctant at first because we fear we are not ready but eventually we follow through. We follow through because it is true. We are more than we think we are.

It goes without saying that I found myself secretly romancing words again like they were a paramour. I kept coming back to them. Initially I’d flirt with simple sentences and paragraphs before moving on to lengthier texts. I never shared them with anyone because then what? I’d be as good as a highschool soundcloud rapper who meddles in fantasies of a career he’ll never have. But so much for compulsion. So much so that I started a blog. Which I still find delirious to date but that’s how jaturanet.co.ke was born.

It’s my third year writing and I’ve never looked back. Okay that’s a lie. It’s a lie as fat as Onesmus because the truth is I have looked back. Innumerable times. I’ve looked back to take stock, to question if this shtick really is for me, if it’s going to work, if I’m any good at it. What’s the end game? I’ve looked back in debilitating insecurity and shame thinking if this is all I’ll ever make of myself.

I’ve looked back for reasons that we all do. But most importantly I’ve looked back for love like we do to a lover we just bade goodbye. I’ve looked back but I’ve never turned my back on it at least yet. And on the many occasions I’ve dared to hang my hat, to call it a day, to quit I’m roped back into it by a force greater than myself. Not because I’m the most talented writer. Far be it from me to make such a rich assertion. But because I’m obsessed almost to the degree of possession. 

There’s this song, bandana, by Fireboy and he says something in the lines of, “Music chose me….. know this and know peace.” 

It’s one of those “if you know you know” lyrics. Fireboy can’t help it. He can’t help but spend hours in studios to figure out ways to fill peoples homes, cars and lives with his music. 

The men in cloth have a name for it – “calling”. Music is his calling. And in many respects I share those feelings. I love words, not necessarily writing. Writing is a labor of love but words? Words I love.

Last year on a Saturday night, I was out in the club. Doing the usual.  Sipping a drink and snogging a miss. Before a lad who was three years behind me in highschool walked up to me and let out a paroxysm. With the help of Dutch courage he had me know that he reads. Not religiously but he passes by jaturanet every now and then to see how it’s holding up. To check out if the decor is still on point, if the plumbing is alright and if the lights are still on around there. 

I disembarked from the lady I was with momentarily and hugged him profusely. Those tight animated hugs men give each other with slaps on the back. I did so for his recognition of my efforts and his nod of appreciation. I said thanks as my eyes welled up. And beyond that I couldn’t say more but float in the intense emotional atmosphere he had inspired. I said thanks again and we blankly stared at each other. Until we were both comfortable we had completely fleshed out the moment before parting ways.

From time to time I get into such encounters with people. Some folk mean well with their comments. Others are snide and mocking. Some remarks may sound positive but are veiled in contempt. I see through them. No harm no foul they say. It’s all part of the shebang. Part of the trade. It’s what I signed up for. Those are the wages of art.

Life as a creative is like a solitary acacia tree standing erect in the middle of a desert. It’s a lonesome one. Like that of the proverbial lonely wolf. Acknowledgement from unexpected corners will come and go but it invariably comes down to the man in the mirror. Sink or swim? I choose the latter because art is to me what water is to fish. I’ll keep doing it. If not for me then in honor of the latter day prophets in my life.


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