Thank you for beautiful questions, Penny. Here are my answers.
1. Have you ever gotten lost thinking how it all could just be make-believe?
Yes, all the time, since I was very small, in fact. I often thought that life as I saw it wasn't real and made up my own theories about it. When I was 5 or so, I was eating purplish berries from the juneberry tree bush at our dacha, standing on the rickety bench, and I came up with an idea that when I will grow old, I'll turn around and grow young again, then grow old, and so all those stories about death are nonsense. Another time I was fascinated how I could never look at myself the way other people look at me. I could never get out of my head, so I set upon staring at the mirror and trying to get out of my head. And yet another time when I looked under the bed where my grandmother laid out persimmons on the newspapers to ripen, I thought I saw a sea of them, not just some thirty persimmons, but a whole sea, and I was convinced that my reality was realer than what I saw. I still do it, when I write. I sometimes catch myself thinking that maybe all of it is make-believe, only we each have our own, and I live in mine and show others what it's like through my stories.
2. So many people don't take much notice of other people nor look beyond the presentation placed in front of them. Isn't it a funny world to be a part of?
The sad truth is, unless you have enough space to see other people, you won't. We all carry so much of our own shit that we simply have no space for others. We often don't recognize that by clearing it out we'll stop being blind. That's why those of us who manage to do it get overwhelmed with those who want to be seen. They know you have space for them, and they clamor for it, they are desperate. It's our collective pain, and this pain is part of our life. Perhaps if we didn't take the turn away from hunting and gathering about ten thousand years ago, we wouldn't have developed this blindness because we would've still lived in small 100-150 people tribes where everyone knows everyone and everyone sees everyone. I think artists are like starters of these tribes now. We tell you, "I see you," when we make art. "I see you, and you are part of life, and this is how I see life." It's in our hands to erase blindness.
3. Do you think artists are driven to create so they can become more real?
I think artists create because they can't not to. We're dying to share everything we see and hear and smell and experience, and we get a million more impulses from the world around us than those who aren't as sensitive. This abundance of emotions has to go somewhere, so we create. If you notice, many artists create constantly, they seem to bubble with energy, be it positive or negative or melancholy or joyous. It wants out, and so we let it out. If we don't, we whither and die like flowers without sun, without water.
4. Would you be less real if less people heard your stories?
No, I have found myself through writing my stories regardless of whether people read them or not. I often catch myself on being out of my body most of the day, first writing my stories, then reading the stories of others. I get so absorbed in it that I lose all sense of reality and gain myself back, from that time when I was a child, when it was only me and the sun and the grass and the mountains and the dance of the green trees, and they spoke to me, and I spoke to them, and I was me and I didn't know I couldn't be me. I wasn't told that yet. It wasn't beaten out of me yet. I was intact, whole, and when I write my stories, I return to that place. And I'm real, to me. That's why writing is so addicting. I can't have enough of this sense of being real, you know?
5. Is that what is being referred to when you speak about only feeling alive when you are creating?
Yes, because when I create I'm in the now. People have been battling with this problem for millennia. There is meditation, there is spiritual practices of all kinds, therapy, you name it. It's about the same thing. Our brains like to throw us into the future (I have to do this tomorrow, and this, and what if this will happen, and I can't forget about this) or into the past (I hate it that this happened to me, and I still hurt over this, and they have been awful to me about this). Rarely do we experience now. Sometimes we have those moments, when we look at a sunset and for a second forget the chatter and simply enjoy it there and then. We always speak of those moments later as something life-changing. But when we are kids, we live in the now most of the time. We have no concept of past or future yet. Same with creating. Because we go back to how we were before we forgot how to be in the now, we feel alive when creating. Time stops. There is no past, no future. It's a trick, really, and it's the only way to live. The rest of it is your body existing while your brain is chasing something unattainable, preventing you from enjoying what you have. A wilted flower on the side of the road that has beautiful pinkish petals. A drop of rain on your nose. A smell of spring. An old newspaper fluttering in the breeze as though it's dancing. Those are the moments to live for.
6. Does it ever feel odd being more whole from giving pieces of you (your creations) away?
No. It feels marvelous. I grow more and more whole every day. The more I give, the more I seem to have to give. The more people give me. It's a never-ending cycle of giving love, and I only wish I have discovered it earlier in my life.
Thank you, Penny, for these beautiful questions. I hope my answers gave you what you were looking for.