It’s been a while since I have written anything. No poems. No essays. No short stories.
When I look at the newsfeeds of my prolific friends, I feel a little guilty. “Have you been writing,” one friend asks? Another inquires if I am at least submitting work for publication. Strangely, I have made scant progress on anything related to my own creative fiction and nonfiction.
This uncomfortable truth doesn’t take away the tinges of guilt and envy when I am surrounded by writers and artists who are producing circles around me. And, sure, enlightenment says this isn’t a race or competition… but, we all know it is. At least, the business of what we do compels us to be productive. To produce.
Most of us need the feedback, accolades, connection, and (although laughable at times) financial support we gain from taking our work to the streets. Some might argue the value of the creative process is moving through the creative process, as if just doing is enough.
For spiritualists and believers, the creative process is communication between self and Spirit or God. For others, and I would dare say the majority, writing, painting, music, etc. is our means of expression, communicating our deepest, most intimate selves (souls?) to the world (and, hey, maybe even the means to earn a living).
There are also many others whose work is the catalyst for social and political change – a meaningful vision, an ideal.
Back to Me
Through all of the definitions and pressures to produce for reasons both menial and purposeful, I seem to have lost my way. For several months I worried that I was simply bored with my writing. I was restless. I wandered around looking for something I couldn’t seem to find.
Sheepishly, I took all of those “what is your true calling” quizzes. I re-read the Enneagram (Tragic Romantic 4, no surprise). I took all of the career path tests and continued to draw the Writer card. Dammit. My other choices: Clergy or Psychologist.
Writers are akin to preachers, after all, channeling the message of the unseen, unexpressed, and under-appreciated.
“Writers are healers… words are balm,” one friend reminds. The narrative of our pain can conjure healing.
But, lately, I am neither wordsmith evangelist nor wounded healer. Even poetry seems flat to me, a personal chore, like pumicing dead skin. That old glass slipper that once fit perfectly doesn’t seem to encapsulate my big toe now. Bluntly, I am fucking terrified.
Still, in my terror, I refuse to produce for the sake of saying, “Hey, look, I made something!” (says every potty-training toddler).
Another friend lamented, and I will paraphrase, “There are too many photographers and not enough readers.” I argued against this notion of “too many,” but can understand his point.
People are writing and producing art more than ever before with the advent of print-on-demand and the vanity press. We’re all looking for a little appreciation, I guess. To be heard, seen, validated. Through the billions of Tweets and fragments, photos and paintings, the practice of the creative life has been shanghaied.
Let me say it again: the practice…
I’m aghast at the grammatical errors found in professional articles and essays. If the pros can’t even manage the discipline to edit and hone skills, I really cannot rail against the amateur. In essence, we are in a creative frenzy, a race to stay ahead of the ADD public.
It’s as if, culturally speaking, we are still living the message of those 1990s Baby Einstein, Baby Monet, Baby Mozart cds … we believe talent just kinda makes itself. Everyone’s an artist, right?
Practice takes too long. Being unproductive means no attention. And, god forbid, the humble role of the student, of being willing to be taught.
The Muse is Dead… Long Live the Muse
None of this is exactly hot off the press news. And, I am not sure analyzing the state of the arts is going to alleviate my fucking terror at my own lack of motivation.
I’m driven by the same insecurity of silence. I want to have my muse back NOW and sell books that will actually be read. But, I am cursed with having to take my own mad advice.
So, maybe I will wait it out some more and see what shakes. Stay curious. Be zen about it.
Tomorrow I am going to one of my favorite mountains. She and I know I won’t share anything about it with you. Because, at least for now, the practice needs to be enough.