I sat frozen with my fingers over the keys for several minutes before forcing myself to type this. Where to start….
I came home from my first writer’s conference inspired and determined and just a touch terrified. I threw myself into developing my career over the next few weeks. Every spare moment was dedicated to some aspect of moving my career forward. One can only work that relentlessly for so long, however, and eventually the inevitable happened: burnout. I didn’t think it was such a big deal. In fact, the timing was perfect. It was the Christmas season and everyone was taking a break. Why shouldn’t I?
What I didn’t realize was that the touch of terror which had followed me home from that conference had been silently growing in my mind until it began to mire my thoughts in a deeper and deeper fog of fear. My creativity was suffocating. In attempting to clear the fog, I experienced an epiphany: I was an artist. Say what? Some of you may find this unbelievably, stupidly, obvious and can’t understand how this was an epiphany. Yet it was for me.
I had always thought of myself as a writer. I had always thought of writers as having rules. There are grammar rules and spelling rules and genre rules and word count rules, etc etc etc. Where there are rules, there are clear rights and wrongs. So I never thought of myself as a true artist because true artists didn’t have rules. Not really.
The value of the product of a true artist’s efforts was completely subjective. One group of people might think an artist’s work was amazing while another might think it was utter rubbish, and there would be no objective way of proving that either group was incorrect. This was just how the world worked for true artists – for painters, sculptors, composers, innovative/freestyle dancers, etc. Not for writers.
Or so I thought.
Writers aren’t artists. Artistic? Absolutely. Artists? Not really. Because we have rules. So as long as we follow the rules, our product must be deemed good. Right?
Wow. The number of flaws in that subconscious belief I’ve carried around all these years is staggering! I mean, the irony… The very first writing rule I ever remember being taught came from my third-grade teacher who told me, “Listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, rewrite it. Try again.” Listen to my gut. Right. Because that is completely objective. Ummm no. No, it’s not. Everyone has a different “gut instinct.” If they didn’t, everyone’s writing would sound exactly like everyone else’s. Clearly, that isn’t the case.
With the realization that I was a true artist and therefore my work was subject to the variant opinions of anyone and everyone who read it, came the realization that there was nothing I could do to absolutely guarantee myself success. And the fog grew.
Have you ever experienced something like this? How did you handle it?