Love Letter - Raw Craft

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My finger-licking filthy little fuckbird. That’s how James Joyce endearingly addressed his wife, Nora Barnacle. Ok, so I tagged on the finger licking bit. But filthy fuckbird is one hundred percent Joyce. Talk about Raw. And ever so far from the inky calligraphy you imagine lacing the snooze-fest that is your grandma’s love letters. 

Or maybe a Joycean fuckbird isn’t so far off the mark for Granny’s chest of letters. Maybe your gran had her a filthy good time. Afterall, every family has its own Nora Barnacle; its own scandalous past which the fuddy-duddies keep on the hush. I doubt Joyce felt any kind of way calling Nora his “filthy little fuckbird”. And from the rather explicit record, it seems Nora was a very willing and capable partner in crime. They lived entirely in the red raw. And once you’re done with all self-judgement and ridding your own hang ups, what’s not to love about that?

Raw tends to cut to the quick. Eat enough unripe fruit and that shit’ll run your stomach into a stinky pulp. Pounce into argument amidst the heat of raw emotion and you might just lose both your meaning and your relationship. Things that are raw are potent and dangerous--what’s raw can combust in monstrous flames. But when chiseled with sharp craft tools and under cool control, nothing delivers more concentrated power than crafting artistic truth from the raw.

And what is creating from the Raw? Edwidge Danticat answers this beautifully in her sharp essay collection, Create Dangerously. Go to the heart of the heat, she dares those who bear witness. Stand at the very edge of the cliff, where one breathe out of control may undo all control. 

Sure. Edwidge is writing about Haiti and the dangerous devilry creativity has cost dissidents on that tropical island, but I also read in her meditation a sort of incantation to anyone wielding a pen or a piece of paper, a toothbrush or a drumbeat. Create dangerously. Put something significant on the line. Go to that state of real nakedness—let us see you Raw.

Your state of Raw may come from a family secret kept quiet in the attic. Or that thing you did in college, that feels too fragile to pick up and look at raw. Whatever it is, creating from this space is always potent for the same simple reason—you’re reaching through our outer shields of protection and pretense and going straight for the jugular heart where our own raw unfiltered truth throbs alive. You’re reaching right into the nerve centre of what makes us human. All the profound beauty and gut-wretched pain we try to cover up with fancy things, with fancy titles, fancy friends and for the love of the Insta-Gawds—with fancy experiences! 

The strange bonus that comes with creating from the raw is it’s the only way you’ll ever really be seen. Not seen through more awards and fancy titles, nice as those are to receive, but seen by those your vulnerability helps to heal. In being brave enough to use your creativity to see and accept the most raw thing inside you, you’re actually seeing and freeing yourself and others.

Pretty trippy, right? 

Create Dangerously, a wise Latina woman advises. (Honest question—are Hatians Latinas?) Because, my God! Excavating truth from the Raw is indeed such dangerous work. Danger Cautiously, the subtitle should read. 

Going to that raw creative space is not free therapy or passing on your wounds in the name of art. No one needs your pain. Read that again. No one needs your pain, they’ve already got their own hurt. Heal first. Or at least give yourself distance. Then create, dangerously. You’ll also be cutting down others’ raw spaces with the kind of precision and control Toni Morrison yields. “I need all of my skills, all of my power”, Morrison say “...and anger doesn’t provide any of that--I have no use for it whatsoever.” 

Ok, so I’m nowhere near guaranteeing you Toni Morrison levels of singular badassery, but your girl’s word is still bomb. Do the hard inner work first. Heal. Seal any place that’s toxic from leaking. Then create dangerously—using everything that’s as Raw and live-wired as a filthy fuckbird. After that, cash in this Toni Morrison Warranty for what I can guarantee you will be a very potent life-shot of pure electric energy.

No go. Be Raw. And Create Dangerously. 

Makhene