This week’s theme for the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge hosted by Jane Ann McLachlan is Secrets. As I wrote in my first post, authentic writing requires honesty, but not all secrets need to be revealed. A category of secrets that I keep to myself are the secrets that aren’t mine to tell: Not My Secret — October Memoir Challenge.
A second category of secrets that I don’t share are about works in progress. One of the tensions that writers, and other artists, must contend with is that the act of creation requires secrecy. The art must be honest, but, most of the time, it must be kept secret for two reasons.
The first reason that we produce art in secrecy is to protect the process. A writer needs to write sloppy first drafts with awkward phrases, long passages of nothing that lead into something worth keeping, and secrets that won’t be in the final draft but make the initial draft easier to compose. This is a difficult phase of writing that would be rendered impossible if the writer expected someone else to read the material as it was written.
The exception that proves the rule of secretive creation is improvisational art. The reason it’s so much fun to witness improv theater, jazz, and street artists is because we’re given a rare opportunity to witness the dawn of a creation. Such creative moments are usually hidden in poets’ notebooks, painters’ studios, and composers’ music rooms.
The second reason that secrecy surrounds art is that artistic works benefit from being displayed to the world at a particular moment — a work of art needs a birth announcement, a grand reveal, a ribbon cutting. So, even when the art has safely ventured past the phase when secrecy protects process, its existence still needs to be wrapped in veils until the big moment arrives. At that big moment, the artist invites the world to celebrate the revealed book cover, the issued invitation to the gallery show opening reception, or the scheduled first read-through of a debut play (I attended one of these recently and it is a very cool opportunity should you ever get the chance).
Do you keep secrets about your artistic endeavors? Are there other reasons besides the ones I mentioned?
Thanks to Jean Haines for allowing me to use her invitation to an exhibit at The Wey Gallery for illustration. Check out Jean’s blog, Watercolours With Life, for details about her upcoming USA tour, her instructional DVDs and books, and many glorious pictures.