I’ve often dreamed about being naked in public, and every time, I’ve thought, “How could I have let this happen in real life when I’ve had so many nightmares about it?”
And then I’d wake up and realise, again, it was a dream.
Except when it wasn’t.
The morning after I published my first blog post and saw I’d had 100 hits, I felt like I was starkers in a city square.
And then I spent a combined total of about 100 hours on a 3-part series almost no one read (at least, not right away).
I couldn’t decide which was worse.
Why am I doing this to myself? I wondered, knowing the answer already.
For a long time, I was afraid of being known. My first real boyfriend said I was “like a diary with 12 locks on it.”
And yet, I’ve always harboured a desire to connect, not just with another person, but with an audience.
As I mulled over my discomfort, it occurred to me that, in many ways, it might be helpful to approach an audience the way one would successfully approach a more intimate relationship.
Why “nakedness” is crucial for connecting with an audience
Think about the art – books, music, photography, dance; the medium doesn’t matter – that touched you most.
How honest was it? Did it make you feel like someone reached into your chest and pulled a diamond from it?
That’s what happens when artists truly express themselves.
I’m not saying you have to literally reveal details about your own personal life (by, for example, showing actual naked photographs, or confessing to occasionally warped eating habits). Choreographer Julianne Chapple makes a valid point when she cautions against letting your life story overshadow your work.
But there are ways to speak your truth while leaving room for others to insert theirs. For me, the balance comes from saying what I feel wants to be said, rather than what I think will impress, and ignoring any thoughts about the consequences.
Then, I think about the audience, and about how I might shape the piece so it will serve them.
When you create something that originates from your self, you can’t help but be original, because you are unique.
At the same time, your creation will be more universal, because we’re all the same in fundamental ways.
Putting your heart into your work, and taking the chance it’ll get rocks or tomatoes thrown at it, can be terrifying.
It’s like loving someone who might or might not love you back.
And it’s worth it.
How to look better “naked”
When I was 16 and fretting about whether or not my first real boyfriend liked me, my mom said,”Don’t think about how he sees you. Focus your attention on him.” It was good advice (although I didn’t take it), and it applies to audiences as much as it applies to significant others.
Please don’t feel like I’m preaching here; I’m as guilty of egocentricity as anyone.
Why do you think I looked at those blog stats in the first place?
I want praise and recognition, and not just because I want to feel like there’s a point to what I’m doing. I want it because there’s a part of me that thinks it would mean, once and for all, I was good enough.
But of course it would mean nothing of the sort, because I’m already good enough, with or without an audience. We can know things, you see, and at the same time, not know them.
I read an interview with Junot Díaz in which he talked about the dangers of chasing audience approval, and how it kills your creativity.
Still, the connection between the artist and audience is part of art’s purpose.
I felt it watching my sister and her husband perform at a theatre in Victoria, where the air was thick with energy.
I felt it at midnight on a dock with Kevin and my brother, Young Empires drifting from Dave’s bluetooth speakers. Bioluminescence sparkled in the dark when we moved our hands in the water, and it seemed to me the music was like that.
I felt it when I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao*. I imagined lightning shooting through Díaz’s fingers as he wrote, and I felt it crackling off the pages as I read.
That’s what I want.
I want to make someone feel like that, preferably lots of someones.
The desire for praise is maybe separate but related, kind of like how, when you’re in a relationship with someone you love, the purest part of you wants to infuse that person with nourishing and pain-destroying light, and the other part just wants to hear about how sexy you are.
The latter is fleeting. Ask Trump’s exes.
If you love someone, spending all your time worrying about the extent to which he or she loves you back is like taking a pickax to the relationship.
When you focus on what you can give, that’s when the magic happens, and you discover it doesn’t matter if anyone loves you, because the light you sent out lit you up from the inside.
Featured Image: © Nejron | Dreamstime.com
What about you Reader? How have you experienced nakedness in art? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
PS: I’m writing a book about the creative process. Subscribe for free, and when it’s done, I’ll send send you the first chapter.
*These are affiliate links, which means that, if you buy the book after clicking them, I get a very small commission. That said, this book really is one of my “top 10”, and it’ll cost you the same, either way.