Recently I finished reading “Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road” by Patrick Ross. “Committed” is a memoir that came out of what began as a business trip. Patrick crossed the country interviewing non-celebrity artists about copyright. Having abandoned his own artist’s road, his intent was the support the journeys of others. Where that journey took him and the re-commitment to his own creative path wasn’t part of the plan.
Patrick’s beautifully crafted writing takes us along for the ride with extraordinary and humbling honesty. I could not help but feel I was on that journey and that I, too, was transformed. The book takes us on both an inner and an outer journey, each a catalyst for the other.
“I will head to my motel reflecting on the choice an artist faces, of waiting for inspiration or seeking it out.”
I can’t remember exactly how I came across Patrick’s blog. He was in the midst of doing his MFA at Vermont College and I suppose I was curious because I was in the midst of the editing of my own book, “Once Imagined”. I was inspired and intrigued by the articles about creative process, creative personality and bits about his own book. Patrick’s history as a professional writer and having won awards for his writing didn’t make the process of finding an agent or a publisher easy. However, it was when he posted a link to his award winning short story “September 12” that I knew I could not miss this book. When Patrick announced he had found a publisher, I eagerly awaited the release. I was not to be disappointed.
Patrick’s writing is elegant and visceral. This isn’t a pretty story of trial and redemption.The book opens with a powerful revelation and the explosive division of a family. The structure of the journey begins like the dispersed and slow mouth of a river and travels against the current in search of its dynamic, focused and fast flowing source.
The artists are interviewed in the places they love and in the their studios. They are, including and especially the author, beautifully flawed. Beautifully human. Redemption is not in the defeat or elimination of their brokenness, but in the triumph of finding the truth, the art, in those breaks. The real journey, the reality of the ‘art committed life’ is revealed in the memories sparked at each point on the road that bring the author to realize what the fear of his own darkness has taken from him and the ones he loves.
The financial concern and the protection of copyright was the reason Patrick started the trip, but the artists’ need to express their creativity to be fully authentic seemed to consistently take precedence. The risks many of these artists were willing to take to do that was inspiring and begs the question, why make art?
My creative leaning is to the minor key, something I could relate to in some of the interviews and Patrick’s own musings on music. I found myself setting aside the book to look up a few of the artists, Rochelle Smith in particular. I was inspired by the words and found the music to be as ethereal as Patrick described.
Patrick asked Rochelle for some advice for aspiring artists and I think it sums it up perfectly: (Committed, pg 220)
“Tell your story. Three words. You’ve got to tell your story. Don’t be afraid of exposing yourself. Someone else has probably been through it, and putting it out there will help you get past it. If you’re a songwriter, write music. If you’re a poet, write o peom. If you’re a painter, paint a picture. But tell your story.”
Highly recommended – especially if you are an aspiring creative or a blocked creative that needs a reminder of what an ‘art committed’ life is really about. Being who you truly are is more than about money, fame and the trappings of success. It is about embracing all of you, the light and the darkness. And then taking that first step, then another, then another, because you must.
“I don’t need to see some other artist at work. I see everything I need to see, and I know everything I need to do.”
I wrote a post a couple months ago on a similar topic. I found it interesting that Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” was referenced by both Patrick and I. Hmmmmm….
* all block quotes from “Committed”