It freaks me out, if I’m honest. Staring at a blank page knowing I have to turn it into something is slightly terrifying. But I have to write. There is just no choice in the matter. There is something in my mind that just takes to words so strongly, and craves to construct them in all sorts of different ways. For me, overcoming that fear is one of the most difficult parts of being creative. I intimidate myself into a corner and end up making some half-hearted excuse to not write, resulting in frustration and mental turmoil because I’m not getting anything out. But I’m learning to go in afraid.
I feel that we, as artists, have this innate pressure to create. It’s our natural tendency to take what we see in this world and turn it into something beautiful. It’s the optimists in us, I suppose. I find myself cramming creativity into my schedule wherever I possibly can; in the throes of life, it seems that all of our schedules are jam-packed, increasing that pressure. If I carve out fifteen minutes to jot down some lines for a poem or a couple paragraphs for a story, I want it to be good. There’s more pressure to like everything I create, which is naturally impossible. Mixed results are just a part of the creative process, but it becomes rather loathsome if we’ve got a boatload of pressure on our shoulders .
This pressure naturally ruins the enjoyment I get out of creating. There is nothing better than sitting down with my notebook, and without a thought just writing some words, no matter what they are. In fact, I did that the other day, and I was quite proud what I created. Not because it was perfect on the first try, but because it was natural and uncoerced. However, when I impart that artistic pressure on myself to create something good every single time, I also create an overall pressure on myself as a person. I use “artist” and “writer” as identifiers for myself, and because that’s the case, if I create something I don’t like, then I feel as though I’ve failed not only as an artist but as a human. This isn’t a healthy perspective to take on. I’m trying to shift my thought process from that, to feeling satisfaction in creating at all. Is being creative naturally frustrating at times? Sure. Do we still put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves that creates more frustration? Absolutely.
An added dimension to burden of being on our game all the time is also being prolific in our work. It suddenly isn’t enough to make things well every time, we also have to make a lot of it just to stay relevant. Prolific but perfect, too. That pressure, for me, is unmanageable. So, I just stop creating altogether. I’ve started to feel like if I ever want to make a name for myself with my writing, I would have to create a bunch of amazing things, do that quickly, and then keep doing that all the time. I think of people who are always posting their art on Instagram everyday, or authors who release books several times a year, or photographers always having a new photo series to offer. I can’t keep up with that. That makes writing not fun. I want to have fun when I create. So I’ve stopped trying to make a name for myself. Now, don’t get this mixed up. Author is still my dream job, and I would love to have that dream come to fruition one day, but I’m done trying to keep up. I’m going to write at a rate that feels good for me, publish pieces when they feel good to publish, and let my creativity manifest in a timing that’s right, not rushed.
There is so much saturation in art, and everything, nowadays. Everyone and every company is releasing something new at an alarming rate. If this is the case, how can we really dig into and appreciate anything? Well, we really can’t. The technological advances of our day make it quite simple to make the newest, greatest, best thing. But maybe the limitations of the past were an advantage. If something took a lot of effort to create, the quality had to be there. If an author wanted to publish books a hundred years ago, it didn’t matter if they had forty books written, it mattered if they had one great one. Being prolific seems to be of top priority in order to stay relevant in whatever social media algorithm is changing that week. I’m here to remind us that that old phrase “quality over quantity” is still true. I want to really take my time in my writing projects, produce small pieces here and there when I can that illicit and illustrate to the best of my ability, and just write along the way without this insane publication, prolificacy, perfection pressure.
The pressure does me in. It’s what stops me. I implode with all the ideas in my head but no action to create them, but I psych myself out with the need to create a lot and post post post, but then I also need to create perfectly and eliminate the drafting process. I’ve come to resent the drafting process lately, even when, in reality, it’s at the heart of art itself. I’m scaling back again and reminding myself that step one is getting words on the page. That’s it. Multiple drafts don’t happen at once. This battle with a combination of perfectionism and fear of missing out has silenced me. It amounts to fear. I’ve had it with being scared of my own craft, and I’ve begun to take the first steps to change that. I’ve come to realize that although remaining silent has become comfortable for me, I think it scares me more than any of this.
I’m going in afraid.
Bravery as an artist means creating anyway. Busy? Create anyway. Unmotivated? Create anyway. Scared? Create anyway. Not because we have to, because we truly desire to. Remember that passion when you first started? I do, too. Let’s get back to that. What can stop us, right? Oh yeah: fear. Yes, fear exists, and it really clutches at us in a striking once it makes a home in our head. For me, my fear could be best described in lyrics to one of my favorite songs:
“Staring at the blank page before you.” -Natasha Bedingfield, “Unwritten”
The thing about this song, though, is it’s not about being afraid, but free within the act of creation. I can take one of two approaches in that moment in front of my notebook: 1) I can freak myself out until I close the cover back up or 2) I can embrace the fact that this clean page is about to get beautifully messy. Logically speaking, I opt for the second.
One example of going in afraid that comes to mind instantly is as I sit at my computer attempting to relaunch my novel, Caspertown, I struggle to begin. So I’m making a shift, like I mentioned earlier. I’m filling those pages with something
beautiful. I’m embracing getting words onto that page, and worrying about the fine details later. I’m telling a story imperfectly, but the beauty of writing is that drafting process. I can go back later and tweak it how I’d like. It’s kind of magic, right? Besides, what fun is an imperfect story, anyway?
When approaching Caspertown, I’m learning to be intentional in suppressing the fear that has kept me from this story for so long and immersing myself in my message and the perspective I want to offer. That’s what counts. First and foremost, I want to offer it to myself within the process, so there isn’t room for fear. That’s something else I’m learning: for art to serve others, it must first serve the artist. There is so much tangled up in art that we as artists need to untangle and let the perspective shine through. We shouldn’t fear our ideas, but embrace them and journey with them. Go in afraid and come out having something.
My encouragement to you today is to create. Paint the first stroke. Write the first word. Dance the first step. Sing the first note. Read the first line. And so many other firsts to come. I leave you with some wise words fitting for this topic (and in my case, quite a great role model):
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”
Much Love, Quinn
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Crazy cat lady. Exploratory writer. Much love.