No More Fuel to Burn: Confessions of an Artist

by Victoria Hornsby

I enrolled in film school in 2015 after deciding to turn down my admission into an animal science and pre-veterinary program. I hoped to tap into my creative side that has brought me so much joy since I was a child. I really wanted to become somebody — preferably the next Steven Spielberg. When I arrived at film school, my experience was different than what I had planned. I was bombarded by projects and papers that left little time for the spontaneous creativity I thrived on. I have spent most of my college life in the hustle. I have been trying to work harder at film to become, if not the famous filmmaker, since everyone basically told me that was impossible, at least good at something film related. I thought that my romantic idea of being an artist was something I could grasp by staying up just a little closer to dawn each morning filming cinematography projects, editing one more video, writing one more script. I lived with my parents my freshman year to save money, but I ended up moving onto campus so that I could stay up later working on film shoots without worrying about driving forty-five minutes home to Beasley at 2 A.M. Being on the run at all times seems like such a positive thing, especially for an artist and film kid. The problem is that art requires certain spiritual and emotional energy. One of my film professors tried to tell me during my freshman year that art cannot be the fuel I survived off.

For too long, I was living the life of someone who was identified as an artist, meaning that I was looking to art to provide me sustenance and meaning to make it through each day. By my sophomore year, the nights got later, the alarm clock went off earlier, the days got busier. I ran audio, assistant directed, and produced student films. A friend and I produced a series of 24-hour film productions for which we would complete an entire short film in a weekend. By the end of sophomore year, I was exhausted. Art did not come. Film assignments and some stabs at filmmaking came, but they were not art. What came only kept one thing alive in me: my insecurities. My identity became tied to art and the making of it.

Sometime during my sophomore year, I began to burn out. I couldn’t keep going at that rate. Consequently, many things in my life came together as factors that forced me to just quit. I couldn’t keep running tech at my church every Sunday, while catching up on reading for my Elia Kazan class during the second and third services. My boyfriend graduated college and moved to his hometown, an hour away. My sister was close to graduating high school and moving to Ft. Worth to go to college. I decided it was time to quit. I learned to say “no.” It started with my spiritual life and becoming more whole as a human. I started taking time to rest. I practiced silence and the divine hours. These were things that I never grew up with, but I loved how I was able to find peace through these ancient practices. It was no burning bush experience, but I felt my life slowly becoming more aware of all the things about myself and others I was missing. My mentor, who encouraged me to quit volunteering, invited me to come to his church where I experienced community where I was accepted for who I was, not what I did.

The result was that, for a while, my life was uncomfortably still. I was finally able to hear the voices of my insecurities screaming when life stopped being deafening. I still felt like I needed to earn acceptance and approval from those around me by performing. It was hard to learn to be a valuable human when I wasn’t doing anything to earn being valuable. As I was still, I noticed more things around me. Sunday afternoons without homework became a thing that I could not get enough of. I needed to explore the silence. It is like going underwater. At first it can be jarring, disorienting, and uncomfortably still as your eyesight and hearing adjust, but once you’ve been under there long enough, you start to notice things — beautiful things. There is another world beneath the chaos, and going under water is like finally tapping into it. The world makes more sense from underwater sometimes. One of the main things I realized was how many emotions I had been stuffing down because I did not have time to process them. I soon discovered, however, that the emotions that I finally began processing were just the surface of so many deeper issues that I had just been living with.

Slowly, I began to heal. Letting go of trying to be an artist led me into this weird place where I started to become one. In a way, letting go is the only way to hold on. The only way to be sure that you live your life to the fullest is to let go of it. The only way to make good art is to let go of trying to make art and learn how to live. Only then can you come back to art and try hard and have progress that means something other than earning acceptance. But it will be different. The art will have found you and there is no way that you will ever lose that. Then you will be truly free to create. You will be able to have creative vision and get closer to what you are dreaming of. But now you make it not to survive, you make it because you have lived. I have learned that I have to stop trying to fit faith into my life and art. I am now trying to fit art into my faith and life.

So, I made it to a breaking point. This is where I am. I am living in the tension of not having it all figured out. I’ve now finished most of my cinema classes; so I am exploring art in a new way. I took a creative writing class, an art appreciation class, and I am taking painting this fall. I have started reading other artists work about art, such as Madeline L’Engle’s book Walking On Water. I haven’t figured out the answers, but I do know that to be an artist, I can’t find my identity in the art I make. I want to make art that points to the peace and joy I have found by discovering that I cannot earn acceptance by what I do.

Victoria McCrary is a Cinematic Arts major at HBU. Other than film, she enjoys painting, listening to Jon Foreman, and going on adventures with her friends. She may just be another idealist, but her dream is still to live life well and capture beautiful moments in her art.

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