I want to tell you a story about when I was 13 and I wrote my first song. Things weren’t great, at the time. I was a budding artist, and spent hours drawing and sketching away, working on my own little comic book. It meant the world to me, the story I was telling and the characters I had clumsily assembled. My inspirations were Todd Mcfarlane and Jack Kirby, weavers of dreams that were far beyond my abilities.
Unfortunately, drawing art like that came with an occupational hazard; my Dad. Dad didn’t like comic art. He thought I was wasting my time and my life by not learning to paint landscapes and freehand portraits. I guess he wanted me to go to art school and become a professional artist.
We used to clash about a lot of things, in a relationship that would only get worse as the years went by. But when I was thirteen, that was when I gave up on trying with him. Because every time he found the art that I put my heart and soul into, he’d tear up each piece of paper and throw out the remains. Without fail.
I used to go to my room and cry, wishing he could understand, wishing I could understand why he was like that.
It was in the middle of all this, in a hot Australian summer, that I discovered punk rock through bands like Black Flag and the Ramones. My older brothers gave me CDs to listen to, and for the first time the guilt that I had felt for disappointing my Dad began turning into anger.
I wrote my first song at the end of that summer. I wrote it holed up in my room, on the bunk bed that I shared with my younger sibling, and for the first time I expressed the way my Dad made me feel. When I finished writing the lyrics, I read back over them and I was calm.
I had clarity. I had made something new, something that he could never understand. I had made something that I believed in. The more I wrote songs, the more I made things that let my anger and frustration and depression out, the better I felt. I started my first bands, one after the other, and explored what I intended to be a career in music.
It was something my Dad didn’t understand, which appealed to me.
When I first started seeing a therapist, a little while ago, she told me that I needed to clear my mind and let go of the things that bothered me. She said I should envision myself placing each thought onto a water lily and watching it float away. When she said that, I realised something. For me, that’s what making things was like. I would put every fear and every emotion or memory that bothered me into whatever I was working on, and when it was finished, try to let it go.
Understanding this about my own creative process was a big step, and it wasn’t an easy one. The more I think about it, and the more aware I am of how I work, the better my relationship with myself has become.
My Dad and me? We haven’t spoken in years. And I like it that way. He was an angry man, and a man who made his family afraid of him. For me, knowing him is a lose-lose situation. So I don’t lose sleep over how or what he’s doing.
I still make things every day. They aren’t songs, anymore. Truth to be told, I think I said all the things that I wanted to say with music. These days, I write a lot more and I draw a lot more. I try to apply my creativity to business as well, which has helped me to found Reach and start planning an online magazine.
I’m a lot happier now than I ever used to be.
We are who we are, and we make what we make, because of some people. We are who we are, and we make what we make, in spite of others.
That’s it from me. Have a kick-ass week.