Why do we like to play God?

I was asked in a recent interview if creating visual art and writing fiction had anything in common. I answered that for me, my painting and fiction writing run on parallel tracks and have little to do with each other except to compete for my time.

I added that our need to create may be a God complex, where we decide to create work in our image as a reaction against the circumstances of our existence. This creation is a means of self-expression and can take many forms: writing, painting, sculpting, music, cooking, knitting, sewing, customizing cars; basically you take some stuff and turn it into something else.

What is this compulsion to create? When I was in college, my dad told me that art was a waste of time and since I personally didn't know any working artists (other than art teachers), I couldn't disagree with him. An office job was what I should aspire to. So I gave away my paints and sketch pads and tried to forget doing art. But I couldn't stop drawing or thinking about painting. I bought another set of watercolors and got back into slinging the paint.

So do my visual art and writing fiction have anything in common? I'll amend my previous
answer because upon reflection, they do. Back in the sixth grade, Mrs. Anderson paired up the students in her English class, with the assignment of writing a book (more of a booklet, about 20 pages). I was teamed with Stuart Williams and we were both crazy about Star Trek (the original series). While the other students were writing and illustrating their books about lost puppies, Santa having his sleigh stolen, what-have-you, Stuart and I got busy creating a science fiction saga. When it was time to turn in the books, he and I didn't have ours. Since Stuart and I were good students, Mrs. Anderson asked what we'd been doing for the last six weeks. We showed her a thick binder filled with drawings, schematics, crew rosters, star charts, uniforms, story boards of battle scenes. Basically, we'd been overwhelmed by what turned out to be a star ship epic. Even though we hadn't completed the assignment, we'd done more work than everyone else, and she gave us A's.

While that binder is probably rotting in a landfill, the story didn't die. I kept turning it over and over in my mind, constantly day-dreaming about the plot and living in a world that was a lot more interesting than life in dusty Las Cruces. I jotted my ideas into a series of sketchbooks, with drawings, maps, and narratives. One time, I invited the preacher's son to my home and showed him the sketchbooks. He told the cute girls at church that I lived in a silly cuckoo land. Bastard. After that, I kept the drawings to myself.

Years later, in critique group, one of our members decided to show us what she meant in her story by bringing out sketchbooks of her fantasy world. I had found my tribe!

I guess like most of you writers and artists, if measured strictly by time spent vs. money earned, we might be better off cleaning carpets or bookkeeping. But God Himself, or Herself, wasn't content maintaining the universe as it was. So there.

Plus! This Tuesday evening, Feb 8, catch Jeanne and me at the Smoky Hills Library, 5430 South Biscay Circle, Centennial CO (303-542-7279).

And now, for the important news: Mark Henry is coming to Denver! Yes, the premier zombie enthusiast and snark stylist will be in the Front Range to flay us with his wit and prose.

This Friday, Feb 11, 7pm, at the Broadway Book Mall, 200 S Broadway, Denver, CO. He'll be signing his latest massmarket release, Road Trip of the Living Dead, and Battle of the Network Zombies.

And then, Round Two of Mr. Henry at the Scorned Lovers Art Show. Saturday, Feb 12, 6-9pm at the Art Salon, 2219 East 21st Street, Denver. At York St near City Park for you locals. Mark will lock arms with Denver poet Kate Redmond in a special erotic reading that promises to show that nothing is too lowbrow for us. Eat special Valentine's cupcakes and browse the awesome artwork. Enchant a new lover or hex a treacherous past amante by jabbing a pin into the giant Love VooDoo Doll. Work out your contempt at broken romance by helping us demolish the Scorned Lovers piƱata with the big black Love Stick. It's the other side of love and we've all been there. You be here!


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