100 Creatives

Mesa Poet Elly Finzer on How Her Kids Keep Her Motivated to Create

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 22. Elly Finzer.

Elly Finzer's creativity can't be contained. A poet by trade, she counts music, painting, dancing, and even some interior design as artistic pursuits. 

Her dedication to writing has spanned decades, however. And earlier this year, it paid off when the 38-year-old's first book, Says the Speck, was released. "After 30 years of writing, and 15 years of seriously gathering material for the manuscript, my very biggest dream came true," she says of its publication. 

"I think I arrived by continuing to create, even when the rest of my life was precarious," Finzer says. "I've been through some dark times, and writing saved my life."

She maintains motivation to continue creating because Finzer wants her three children, two boys under 2 and a teenage girl, to grow up with a sense of wonder and "be empowered to create beautiful things," she says. "If I can give them a home where creative pursuit is a given, I think they have a great foundation for becoming pretty cool grown-ups."

Which is why she's hard at work on her second book, a collection of humorous essays called So Very Special. But true to form, she has a few other projects in the works. "I'm a self-taught painter," she says, "and I'm creating a series of surrealist paintings, based on some very lively dreams I had this summer, after my son was born."

I came to Phoenix with $1,000 in my pocket, a 3-year-old daughter, and a small hope that I could make a good life happen for us here.

I make art because
of Kurt Vonnegut. In his book, Man Without a Country, he writes: "The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake." (Kidding, kind of. I've always been into creative pursuits, though. I get very restless if I'm not making something — a painting, a song, or a poem).

I'm most productive when I'm alone. Which doesn't happen very often anymore, but I always find a new way to center myself and get work done.

My inspiration wall is full of color and nature postcards. Visual arts buoy my mood and make it possible for me to see where a story is taking me, how that song is supposed to end, or understand the exact flourish that unfinished painting needed. The postcards remind me to get outside, to pause from the flurry of my every day. That is so necessary for me to recharge.

I've learned most from my incomparable girlfriends, geniuses throughout history who failed but continued to persevere, and people who survive the worst of living with a kernel of intact joy.

Good work should always be honest and original.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more
work from more people brave enough to put the best of themselves out into the world. There is an astounding amount of talent in the Valley, and I would love to see enough demand and opportunity for anyone willing and able to do the work.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski