By Ryan Favata
I was drawing before I was writing—comic book heroes and villains, weather phenomena, my first dog—because it made sense at an early age. As a child, where words failed me, my eyes never lied. It was there, right in front me, the only pure truth I could rationalize, not layered linguistics.
As years went by, and education and literature entered my teenage years and adulthood, I fell in love with words, with the sentence, the structure, and, more specifically, poetry. Beyond fiction, poetry had the feel of performing a magic trick, painting with words while trying to imagine the reader moving from apathy to curiosity to interest to expectation. As Philip Larkin wrote, “poetry is emotional in nature and theatrical in operation.”
When emotions are full of piss and vinegar, what better craft to pursue, what better way to show the world a new thought, a new way of describing and seeing, than poetry? So, I pursued it for years. And still continue the pursuit.
Naturally, writers want to be understood and my poetry was starting to reveal that. The “inner critic” started to dictate my voice on the page, thus hindering the layers of meaning that, I believe, are only revealed through freedom of the subconscious. I was stuck, my poetry was flat, and inevitably I stopped writing as much as I used to, hoping, praying, a break would somehow re-boot my poetic hard drive and I’d come out the other end out-writing Dickinson and Yeats.
Of course, this didn’t happen. My writing was still flat and the joy in the process gone. A wonderful person in my life offered a suggestion: Why not paint? What’s the worst that can happen? So, I did. What gradually happened was nothing short of a miracle. It opened my eyes to parts of the world I’ve inadvertently put blinders up to. I found interest in what I used to see as mundane, needless.
Painting is not the cure-all for creative impotence, but it cured me in many ways that I am just starting to realize: portraying emotion in a new way, layers of meaning with completely different tools, and communication on an entirely different level. What I do know is that everyone should explore genres. Step into the uncomfortable. The work you start may be the last thing you ever thought you’d do, but it may be the one thing that saves you.