I met up with an old friend who’s looking to get back into his creative pursuits. During the course of the conversation it was clear to me that he’s nervous about getting back to indulging in creative pursuits since he’s been away from it a while. I went through the same thing myself. I figured in this post I’d share some of the advice I gave him with you. Whether you’re new at this, you did it at one time, or you’ve been at it a while, this post is for you.
You Have Not Lost Your Voice
When I had my first child, I was still in college. I was scared out of my wits – not even sure I’d finish the semester, and I wasn’t sure about many things. I had a great mentor – Rod. He was my advisor while I was on a creative scholarship. Rod gave me a great bit of advice – your art will always be there. There will be times when you can pursue your art actively, he said, and there will be times you need to put it aside. Don’t be afraid to do it. It’ll still be there.
I’ve spoken before about the long lapse of my creative spark while I tried to forge a career in a conglomerate (and the misery it brought upon me). I’d gotten away from the artistic side, and when I wanted to get back to it I was scared out of my wits. I looked around, took a few classes with great new mentors, and found no, I hadn’t lost it. I was a bit rusty, admittedly, but it never went away.
Why does this scare us so much? Back in You Are Not Crap, I wrote about the artist’s journey of self-doubt. When we realize we’re creatively wired it’s terrifying. We seek some reassurance that our work is up to par; we subconsciously want some kind of approval – someone to tell us we’re good.
In the end, over more years than I care to admit, I’ve been creatively active. I’ve been creatively inactive. Know what I’ve found? Rod was right. You never truly lose your voice. Want to know another cool factoid? I know plenty of other people who’ve been through exactly the same thing. Including several I admire creatively. If you’re wired for this, you’ll never truly lose it.
Do You Fear Failure…Or Success?
Think about this question for a few minutes. It’s a pretty deep point. Getting rejected, being told your work is like swallowing glass, or dinged with a bad review hurts. Yeah, it does, I’m not going to lie to you. It bothers me a bit, I’m sure it bothers everyone. And the bigger your following gets, the less room you have to screw up.
Now on the other hand – what about if you succeed? If you get a headline-making deal where you make an ungodly amount of money, good for you. You should feel good because those things rarely happen. But think about it – what if you start getting positive reviews?
What if you actually realize you’re good at this? Are you afraid the world will change, what was once comfortable to you is now terrifying?
Once you get through the reviews – good and bad – you realize the sun still comes up tomorrow. Your significant other still loves you. Your cat doesn’t run away. Life goes on.
Overcoming Your Own Inertia Will Be The Hardest Thing
The most difficult thing, honest to goodness, is going to be sitting your ass in your chair and working. If you’ve been away from creativity, you’re going to make all kinds of excuses to not work. Because it is work – and you work enough at your day gig, right?
There’s a part of me that thinks at least part of this thinking writing is so tough is due to the way we were taught to write in our early years. The instructors who rammed rigid formats down our throats didn’t do us any favors. Any jackass who tells you you’re not a real writer if you don’t do this or use that software isn’t doing you any favors, either. Forget about the bad writing instructors (if you’ve had them) and don’t listen to the jackasses.
There are No Absolutes in art. If you’re not doing this for a class, explore different processes and find one that works for you. There are so many writing books out there with all kinds of different methods; one is bound to work for you.
The best way I found to get through this was to make writing a reward. You probably got into this in the spirit of play; try to recapture that childlike quality that drew you to art in the first place. Relax. Unwind. And above all, just have fun and enjoy the process. Get back to the things that attracted you to art in the first place.
The Only Thing That Makes You A Writer
The only thing that makes you a writer is writing. Thinking about writing, planning to write, wanting to write and talking about writing don’t cut it. You need to make sustained effort over time in order to succeed. It takes work, and it takes time – nobody can change that. But if you work hard and you persevere, you could be the writer who creates someone’s favorite book.
Wouldn’t that be worth it?