At the end of 2015 I conceived of a new photo series and I spent all of 2016 creating what ended up being 9 images in that series titled “Fourth Wall”. I loved [almost] every moment of creating that series and it felt amazing to finally have it produced and hanging on walls. I stopped myself from thinking too deeply about my next project until Fourth Wall was finished because I have a tendency to bounce around between many ideas and never fully dedicate myself to one of them.
When my show hung in January this year I let myself breathe and explore my imagination again. I thought, after so long focused on one project, a new idea would come to me immediately. The funny thing about creativity, though, is that sometimes the longer you practice it, the longer it takes for ideas to come. Let me clarify – the longer it takes for GOOD ideas to come, and even longer for GREAT ideas to come. (And THE BEST ideas may never come, or we may not realize they have come until after they are born and grown and out of our hands).
I decided not to rush my newest series. I decided I would not force myself into an idea. I had a sense that something big was brewing based on events in my life this past year and where I find myself in my own private thoughts. I knew something would emerge. Each time I thought I saw it’s little head peaking, it turned out to be a false alarm. Every idea I had was stale or a version of something I had done before. Everything felt contrived or boring or not good enough.
I think part of artistic maturity is knowing when you are NOT ready to create yet. I used to throw myself into ideas and I had a lot of fun with it, but now it isn’t as satisfying that I can find an idea with almost no effort. That is not bragging in any sense, and in fact it is the opposite – an admission, that I too often fall back on ideas that are recycled and simple. The ideas are not hard to find; the good ones and great ones and best ones hide deep and deeper and deepest.
I was talking to my friend Amy about some things that had been on my mind when I was traveling in Thailand in May – I didn’t say anything particularly spectacular, but I think that letting out some of my recent story triggered something in my mind. A few hours later I listened to a song off the album “I Can Spin a Rainbow”, Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka-Spell’s newest collaborative record, and I felt the words in me. The music felt true to my life right now.
A few minutes later, reflecting on that music and on my recent thoughts I had spilled to Amy, I had an all-consuming vision. It was perfect. It scared me. I immediately got butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous and anxious and I had trouble breathing. I was excited and elated, even. I had a new idea.
And that idea wasn’t stale and it wasn’t easy and it made me feel sick.
That was how I knew it had to happen.
I started explaining it to Amy, who I knew would or could appreciate it, and in the middle of my sentence I noticed a shift in my mind. The idea went from hypothetical to already happened. I believe in manifesting your desires, or thinking of them as already finished. That happened naturally and without warning as I told her about my idea. I felt that it already happened.
I won’t say what the idea is yet, as it will require some legal hoop jumping and a massive look into the eyes of my fears, but I will say – it is different and dark and deeper than I’ve dared to look.
And that brings me to the question I wanted to ask, and why I am writing this to you.
If you had an idea that you knew
would offend and upset some people,
would you do it anyway?
I am going to create my new series. It will offend people. And I am afraid of that – I won’t act like I don’t become anxious (and sometimes even non-functioning) at criticism. In fact, it is my worst quality and biggest inhibitor on my life. And that is precisely why I feel I need to do it: partially because it is already in me, partially because I feel the need to be honest in my creativity, and partially because the series itself is about directly confronting fear.
I already feel uncomfortable writing this. I never mind if people don’t like my work, truly, as I’ve far outgrown that fear. But I am highly sensitive to personally being a source of unpleasantness for someone.
Logic says that the whole world cannot love us,
Reason says that our best chance at a fulfilling life is an honest one,
My heart says that I am not ready to confront my honesty,
My willpower says that I will do it anyway.
Thank you for following this newest journey. I hope I can push through to make it a reality. All my gratitude.
Inés VQ - Give an opinion or a point of view is not offensive. But if you really think you will offend somebody with your work I think you should first be sure that you have tried to honestly understand their situation and point of view. My credo, you can only criticize the thinks that you care and love.
Kisses, you are great
brookeshaden - Really well made point Ines, I agree! Thank you for sharing. <3
Kathie - Very exciting! I can’t wait to see your new series and happy you are excited to create work that won’t please everyone. You are amazing.
brookeshaden - Thank you Kathie!
Kate C - How wonderful!!! Have you read Liz Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic? Your description of inspiration here is so similar to her description, and it strikes me that all of human inspiration has a shared quality of enlivening us and terrifying us at the same time. I’m so excited to see what your new series is.
brookeshaden - Yes! I only got 1/4 of the way through, so I need to pick it up again and really digest it all!
Paulo Carvalho - Is your main purpose in creating your ideas are to offend someone? Is that the purpose? I do not think so! Here, we say that wickedness is not in the words uttered, but in the mind of the one who interprets the words. I think we can apply to art too! If it is with respect, just do it!
brookeshaden - You are lovely 🙂 Respect, always.
Jim Dawson - Honesty will always bite some , but others will be uplifted . Either way it will help them develop into “real” people . You cannot not do this & remain honest to yourself….so dig in & accept that we got your back 🙂
brookeshaden - I love that perspective and will take it as inspiration into this new series! Thank you Jim!
muneen - I think it’s the first time I really read an artist’s writings. I was really captivated, as if I totally knew what you felt when you had your ‘vision’, even if I never experienced this myself…
All I could say about this, to answer your question that has no real answer, to me, is that you need to create this serie. You need to produce, you need to bring this vision to life. You need this.
So, do it.
If the only reason not to do this is the perspective of offending people, it’s not a good reason to me to stop you.
If it’s really a problem, don’t show it… It’s not what I think you should do, because I believe art is offending to some people, whatever it is. Okay, I got the point that this might really be offending to many people, but.. so what?
Art, real art, is made from what artists have inside themselves. And it’s not often a pretty sight to behold. People who love real art know this, and will probably not be as offended as you may think they would. Especially people who, like me, know your art and love it for what it is -a kind of reflection of what’s inside your soul.
I don’t know if it will help, but I really wanted to answer you, because you deserve this. You’re a wonderful artist, and your questioning is totally rightful.
I really hope you’ll made your mind about all this, and I heartly look forward to see this series.
brookeshaden - I really appreciate your wisdom in this – thank you for writing <3
AB Hsieh - I had a similar moment earlier this summer. I was preparing to speak to a large audience of peers in my technical field. One stale idea after another got crumpled up and thrown in the proverbial circular file. Gradually it dawned on me that I was actually hiding what needed to be said, trying to find a diplomatic way of criticising this group – and by extension, me – and others who were holding back progress. Many of these things were being said in private but no one was willing to say it publically. The more I said those things, the more real they became and the less scary they were. Still, it was a radical departure from what I had done before, so I didn’t really know how it was going to go over.
The presentation was well received by many and criticized loudly by others. Before this, I would have felt awful about the criticisms, but having it run through my head a million times before that day helped me to keep focused and calm.
Art or not, being true to yourself is truly a gift to be shared.
brookeshaden - That is so inspiring, I am going to keep that story very close to me in the coming year <3
Angela Willis - That is the great thing about art Brooke. I can look at it and see one thing and you can look at it and see something entirely different. It speaks to our emotions and our very soul.
I understand your concern about people being offended but not everyone will , that is because you have a kind heart. If I were you, I would only ask myself one question. Will this project make me happy? If your answer is a resounding “yes!” then I think you know what to do! 🙂
Ps: I can’t wait to hear and see what you’re up to!! The suspense is killing me!
brookeshaden - I love that Angela 🙂 You are the sweetest and really managed to set some of my fears aside. Thank you darling!
Gallagher (Fit BMX) - When I read this I started to get butterflies in my stomach and and felt a little sick, I was wringing my hands together. Because I have been reading your blog a long time now and I have never seen a post quite like this befor! It scares me a little, it feels like this idea is going to show your true potential, that none of us (maybe including you) never even know was existed (your work is already so high up there). You have to do this, no matter what others say. I know you (through this blog at least) and you would never hurt anyone or anything, you are the embodiment of kindness, so following this idea is the right thing to do.
This sounds like it will be a big undertaking, and I know there is nothing I could ever really do, but if there is anything I ever could do to help with anything please don’t hesitate to ask.
I am so excited!!!!
John - Purely depends on you intention I would suggest. The fact that some may find it offensive should not stop you from moving forward. If that was the case there would be much art that never got made. If your intentions are justifiable then surely you have nothing to fear. Good luck
brookeshaden - Well said John!
Gallagher Green (Fit BMX) - I thought of two quotes this morning that fit your situation.
“The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies.”
Art is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.
Tanya - “It will offend people.” What, ALL of them? Are you sure about that? 🙂 That’s one heck of an undertaking – to offend everyone, everywhere! Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, some people in life get offended by anything … what someone else wears, how someone else speaks, how they look, the fact that it’s raining when they want to go out … the list is endless. However, ‘being offended’ is also a conscious choice that we, as individuals, make. Being offended can also be a natural reaction to fear; we don’t want to face what we fear, so it’s often easier to be offended by it instead (perhaps it’s more ‘socially acceptable’ somehow?). But who knows – maybe by ‘offending’ some people out there, you’ll actually help them conquer their deepest fears instead. You are one of the most cathartic visionaries I’ve come across and your work challenges and heals in equal measures … don’t let your own fear of offending people hold you back, and don’t ever be apologetic about creating what YOU need to create.
Linda Maveri - Brooke,
You are a genius in my book. With a kind heart and soul.
If there is something inside you that needs to come out, and it’s darker than what people “expect” of you, I say too bad. I think when you first started, there were quite a few people who saw you as a fairytale princess whose work didn’t jibe with her everyday persona, and some people were disturbed with your work. I’m sure you were asked over and over why you didn’t create something nice, something sweet, something pleasant.Obviously people were a little shocked at the time, but you know…they got over it. Look how many people love you, follow you, even though they know your work is rather dark at times. I think you will help all of us grow and inch out of our comfort zones. You are a trailblazer who will make it possible for others to let out their TRUE art…not what might be safe enough for the masses. Now, you may lose a few followers, but great change doesn’t happen without big moves that are sometimes painful. Go be YOU! We will be rooting for you and stand behind you when the “mean people” show up.
brookeshaden - I can’t begin to describe what your words mean to me – you’ve brought tears to my eyes. I am so thankful to have your support and I will move forward with more determination than ever.
Tim Stephens - Brooke – The way I see it, meaningful art initiates a dialogue. It starts with the artist posing a question or making a statement that turns on a light in the viewer’s mind. That light may reinforce existing beliefs and ideas or it may reveal conflicts and dissonance – schisms in the viewer’s framework for relating comfortably to the world. I think the degree to which people are offended depends on how bright that light is for them and what it reveals – how long that part of them has been left unexamined in the darkness. So be it…
For the artist, making art is the process of turning that light on inside their own head and trying to make sense of what they find there. Sharing that art is the act of sharing that revelation with others. There are many motivations to share what we reveal or recognize in ourselves – ‘The Truth’ as we see it and understand it in the moment. But to share out of love – to offend out of love – is noble.
You may already have a feeling for the sorts of people who might be offended by your new series. If, at the end of the creative process for a given piece, you can say, “In the name of love, I offend thee!” you are on pretty solid moral ground. Which is not to say there won’t be repercussions or consequences. Rather, that you succeeded in creating art to further the greater good, sharing your emotional and intellectual journey with honesty and integrity.
More power to you! And lots of love!
brookeshaden - What a beautiful comment, Tim, and I am so grateful for your words. I will carry them close to me as I begin to create. Thank you! And I’ll see you soon!
Dave - I think your taste is impeccable. Some will be offended. Some will be uplifted. That is irrelevant. If it’s inside you, you need to make it. Decide if you’re willing to pay the price for releasing it after it’s done.
So many times we self censor. The truth is, most of the world knows nothing of most of us. That gives us the freedom to be ourselves.
Seth Godin says some people hate stuff. That’s ok though. If they hate it, it wasn’t meant for them.
So… the biggest limit to freedom is our own perceptions. Make your art. Set it free.