Life is … complicated.
Or perhaps ‘life’ is simple, and it is the ‘living’ of life that complicates things.
Complicates, as in, making things a hellofa lot more stressful and tiresome than needed.
I am skilled at that kind of living, through years of practice.
Yet I am also learning new ways to live, to be me, a writer.
A writer is someone who puts words together, tells stories, creates people and places.
To do that, you need to make the effort of literally writing, whether on paper or screen. Ideally, writing should happen regularly, not only to build the creative muscles but to improve at the craft of words and to also write more than a page per year.
For some time, as I tried to become and live as a writer, I would go through spells of productivity – writing regularly, meeting my goals and making good progress – followed by spells of anti-productivity – actively avoiding my stories, procrastinating with every conceivable excuse and committing increasing energy to feel like a failure for it.
Always, inevitably, back and forth.
A pendulum of extremes.
Writing like a true bonafide artist one day, then the next day not writing like a wannabe/has-been artist, scared of seeing my own shadow.
“I put off another day of writing, so clearly I am self-sabotaging and should stop calling myself a writer…”
For SO LONG this was my routine, feeling like a champ for writing today or else feeling like my own worst enemy thwarting my growth as a writer.
When suddenly it occurs to me:
all of it – the writing and the not writing – is the practice.
I had been approaching my art as if it is something to be kept secret, hidden away from the brutal monotony of daily life.
I treated it like something pure and separate from myself.
I had to be ‘ready’ to access it, which meant waiting for when I was fully prepared to show up at the blank page and magically create living-breathing stories.
I was perceiving my other daily routines of living life as interfering with me making art, plain and simple.
The practice of being a writer, of someone who writes and derives satisfaction from doing so, is equally about the pen-on-paper/fingers-on-keys as it is about putting up with frustrating yourself yesterday, making peace over when you feel not good enough, learning to cope with where you are in life and who you are as a whole.
My practice is not solely about counting the number of words written this week.
That is only part of it.
It is also about counting the number of times I can keep coming back to the page, even (and maybe especially?) so when I am feeling like I let my inner artist down this week.
It is about finding purpose from the good days and the bad days.
Writing is about filling the blank page one day,
and accepting the blank page for what it is the next day.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
Redefine what you mean by writing.
The practice is about learning patience and forgiveness for yourself, about learning to see the usefulness in the stark whiteness of the empty page.
Writing is as much about sitting down to write beautiful things as it is about everything before and after that act, including the good and bad, all the petty with all the pretty moments of life.
Make that your practice.
Thanks for reading.