It’s still a surprise for me to discover that I’m a blogger. I never meant to be. It came about by accident. Six years ago Don and I were about to embark on a six-week journey to the Cook Islands, Australia, and Vietnam. I belong to an online forum for fans of figure skating. My forum friends encouraged me to share our adventure on the forum in the non-skating section. Without this invitation I never would have thought of documenting our journey other than with a few photographs.
I’m still not entirely comfortable with labeling myself as a blogger. This stems largely from a perception, which may or not be accurate, that most people don’t take blogging seriously. I suppose I don’t like being seen as a dilettante, even though I may be one. I’d like the occupation of blogging to be acknowledged as worthwhile even when there’s no financial reward. I feel as if only those who blog understand the meaning of it. I suppose we are all in our own little club, and goddam it nobody takes us seriously! I claim the label blogger in the face of this perception. And apparently I care about this. On the odd occasion that I actually think about my perception that blogging is not respected it’s mildly annoying, but nothing like annoying enough to stop me from blogging. Or sharing the blog with non-bloggers, or calling myself a blogger.
So why do I do it? Well I won’t pretend that I don’t like the feedback and the sense of community. Within the blogging community people get it. Here online we get what blogging is about, and support each other in our endeavours. It’s encouraging that there are people who are interested enough to follow, and to comment, and of course I’m thrilled every time with the compliments about my writing and my photography, and with being included in an online community. I love it all. I love you all. You animate and give meaning to my endeavours. “Likes”, comments, followers, and online community all give life to a blog that would otherwise hang in space like a drifting helium balloon. But all of this is not why I do it. It’s the icing and the cherry on top, but it’s not the cake.
This blog has had me in its grip for five years now. At times it’s been stressful, at times I’ve carried it as a burden, but I can never let go of it. Over the years I’ve thought a lot about why I do it, and I feel clearer about that now than I ever have. There are really only two reasons.
The first is the creative act. I believe that it is our essential nature to create. Even the poorest of us are creative. As I travel the world I’m constantly astounded by the creativity of the human species. In a small isolated village in Myanmar I saw a man creating a dolly from local wood, including the wheels. It was all carved by hand.
In Cambodia the short stems of an invasive water plant are used to make beautiful items ranging from baskets to mats to furniture.
In ordinary everyday life, everywhere you look, there is creativity: from meals to clothing to furniture to shelter. In every aspect of life creativity is what keeps it moving forward. And then of course there is the kind of creativity that has no obvious function, but is purely artistic – writing, painting, sculpture, photography, music, and theatre.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a family that values creativity: even, and perhaps especially, the kind of creativity that is about more than mere survival, the kind of creativity that is about the survival and enrichment of the soul. As a result I’ve been creative all my life – in a wide variety of crafts, in the theatre, as a painter, and more recently as a writer and photographer. I don’t know how to not be creative. Since I no longer have a home, and I can’t carry craft or art materials with me as we travel, writing and photography have become my creative outlets that I then share through the blog. This endeavor has been, and continues to be, a stimulating and challenging learning curve.
The second reason I blog is the need to give it away. Part of the very definition of the creative urge behind this blog is the sharing of it. Most artists create because they can’t help themselves. The creative urge arises, inspiration moves us forward, and then we have something where before there was nothing. Most artists work alone. That which has been created is a secret until the decision to share it is reached. Sometimes it is a delicious secret held close to the heart, a dance of creator and created that is meant for a time to be held in that cauldron of love. Sometimes it is a scratching secret, wanting out, wanting to be in the world but held back by fear. Either way there is something about the act of sharing with the world, however big or small that world might be, that completes the creative process.
Creativity has a luminance that aches to be shared, and I suspect that at some level every artist knows this. Something is created from nothing. The act of then giving it away is perhaps the most important purpose of creation, even if it is gifted to only one other person. It is not an altruistic act; it is not done as a kindness to the world, though that may be a side effect. It’s that the act of giving it away completes the creative process and makes it real. Then the sharing of that which has been created can bring forth new ideas and perceptions. The sharing of it is the foundation of change. Imagine the course of modern painting if Picasso had not shared his cubist works, or the course of theatre if Shakespeare had not shared his plays.
All this writing, and all this photography I do as we travel the world – I can’t not do it. I love photography the most, having been a visual artist all my life, but even the writing, though more challenging, tugs at me to be expressed. And then, through the blog I give it away, because if I don’t it has nowhere to land, no home, no validity. If I don’t give it away I’m not sure it would even really exist. At least it would not exist in any meaningful way.
I’m grateful for the creative urges that arise within me. I don’t for a minute claim them as my own. They arise, they fall away. It’s not like I have any control over inspiration. And I’m grateful for all of you who read this blog and bring to completion that which has been created through me. I love the way the creative tapestry of – everything! – completes itself. I love the way we all weave the luminance together, without even trying.
Finally I must give credit to my online friend, and much loved member of my blogging community, Michael Mark, for the inspiration for this post. On his blog Embracing Forever Michael wrote a post about his decision to pursue writing, to become a writer. His final sentence in that post, referring to what we need to sustain us, is: Only the need to give it away. I gasped with recognition when I read it. On that potent involuntary in breath I finally understood what it’s all about: the need to give it away. In that moment I got it that whatever we create is not finished until we share it.
Photos of the day: Top – Sunflower, Vancouver, Canada.
Bottom – Passion Flower, Vancouver, Canada
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2016.