The first thing was choosing to fall through the trap door, which was bound to happen anyway because I had already made up my mind that I was willing to fail.
When, like I was, you are born with the gift for knowing the limits of your talents (except writing, which took until now for me to realize in me is a skill not a talent – there’s a difference), when you instinctively know your limitations, you grow up with the anxiety that you will run out of what you can do and that you will be found out and in the end, you will be a disappointment.
However, I was not born with the gift for knowing sooner or later there should be a trap door, which is different from just not having the facility for doing something, for example, not grasping perspective in drawing or just not having any pitch at all – which is why I have hit the wall four times as a writer (ages 17, 27, 52 and 57). That is a long story and not what this essay (or, as it turned out, my life) is about, and I’m over it anyway.
I was not born with a gift for knowing that if you do not come to a trap door as an artist, a door in the floor of consciousness and self-control through which, if he is lucky, one falls into terrifying depthlessness and never catches one’s breath again until he accepts that if he wants to be good at what he wants so badly to do, he will have to be willing to risk failing and most certainly, falling into the unknown over and over again.
Simply stated, if you do not come to a trap door, whether you ultimately choose to fall through it or not, there is probably a limit to your ability to grow in whatever you are doing.
I did not come to a trap door as a sculptor, and because I know and can accept my limitations, I would have been content to keep doing variations on the same theme until I died. I did come to a trap door as a painter and simply couldn’t go there. Long story that I’m still trying to unravel except for the common knowledge that every sculptor wants to be a painter, anyway.
My trap door was where trap doors are supposed to be, on stage (LITERALLY on stage one night at Brava! for Women in the Arts in 1994, when I still totally sucked as an actor and never thought I would be any good). I am still falling, figuratively speaking, through the same trap door and bumping into characters and stories, so many that I will not live long enough to do anything about most of them.
Simply stated, if you are lucky as an artist, you fall through a trap door into something that makes you look good.