Thanks to every one of my faithful readers who responded to my recent survey. I learned that many struggle with finding time to create and trusting themselves enough to actually do it. I also learned that nobody likes the word struggle. Into my third week of not writing anything but my weekly blog post and my morning pages, I was asked by my partner, “Are you on strike from writing?”
Well, hmmm. Striking is a way of saying I won’t go back on the job until my working conditions improve. Which is funny, considering I am the boss. Okay, so what exactly is going on? Easy. Fear. Fear of having a gaping silent blackness where ideas should be. Also fear of tapping into a live vein of creative gold and having to make good on my commitment to see it through to completion.
An old story.
But what is going on right this minute is that I am protesting the power of that centuries old story by writing. I am exercising my power to express and publish, perhaps to influence, maybe to find like souls and comrades, certainly to find myself–in direct opposition to and defiance of a virtual riptide of silence fed by this fear of the results of my work.
I am aware that to some I haven’t changed a thing by writing today. But to me–and to you, if you pick up your brush, pen, guitar, knitting needles, measuring spoons, the telephone, your sneakers and do something with them–the whole world has opened.
Back when I lived in Massachusetts, I walked to work every day, a couple of miles through the hilly streets of Somerville to my job at the hippest health food store in Cambridge. One day I noticed some broken pieces of blue glass on the sidewalk. For a couple of weeks I walked by those cobalt shards. One day I stooped to examine them. I loved the color. I gathered them up and stuck them in my pocket. When I told that to my boyfriend at the time, he said, “Congratulations, you’ve joined the human race.”
Since then, little by little, I have let myself love things and have them, little trinkets I find, simply because they delight me. Does it mean I am to be a collage artist? Does it mean I am this or that, or will it make me write better, or get me money to pay my rent?
Nope. It means I listened to myself. To my soul. It means I learned something about how to delight myself. And how not to. It means I overcame something that prohibited me from having simple pleasure. Perhaps it was a belief in “too good to be true.” Or maybe it was a decision I made unconsciously not to “indulge” myself, because frivolous is bad and serious is good.
It also means that now when I sit down to write, I listen to myself. I don’t just keep on walking. I stop. I stoop down. I inspect. I pick it up. I write it down. Every time I do that is a victory.
“Struggle” isn’t recognized for what it is, because in us artists it is silent. It’s not like there’s a fist fight going on, right?
Oh there’s that word artist again. Did you just check out? Okay, in recovery we say people don’t end up here by accident. So if you’re reading this, if it’s feeding you, if you feel what I am talking about, then perhaps you belong here. And if you belong here, then perhaps you are an artist. Perhaps you have an artist’s soul. Perhaps it’s your idea of what an artist is that is keeping you from listening to those precious yearnings.
I was going to do a mock info-graphic, as many blogging experts say help to get readers. It was going to look like this:
Got 5 minutes? Yes/No
Got something to write with? Yes/No
Got a blank piece of paper? Yes/No
For each no, get it to yes. Then sit down and write your struggle down. That’s right. Pick up the cobalt shards, but also write about what you had to overcome to have them. Listen to the sweet strains of your own song, but also sing about how rusty and out of touch you feel. Of course it’s not brilliant, complete, practiced, polished, recognizable yet. It’s just getting to breathe and be. This is the time when those first two cells find each other. Deep in the darkest of empty places, this is where life–your life–begins.