Why Do I Write?

Discussed briefly with someone the other day the difference between creating art (literature, etc) for a wage vs creating for personal reasons. It’s a point I’ve often pondered and had planned to blog about, and having it brought up again reminded me.

I’ve noticed that when I work on creative projects for specific people, it changes how I work. In some cases, my artistic abilities are hampered significantly. I worry instead of create. I ponder their reactions in my mind, instead of playing with ideas.

If I wrote for a wage, I would likely learn discipline and it would force me to put pen to paper. However, would I compromise in an effort to churn out content? Would I come to resent writing as a drudge? Or would I overcome all that hinders me and manage to write something worthwhile?

While I certainly could stand to learn some discipline in my writing, I feel that (for myself personally) writing is something I do because I need to write for myself. I must write for the sake of writing and for the sake of my own sanity, not for contracts and paycheques and acclaim.

The trouble is, I have to remind myself of this over and over as I write. Perfectionism and worries about peoples’ opinions continually hamstring my thought process. I have to quote Anne Lamott like a mantra in my head. Shitty first drafts. Shitty first drafts. Shitty first drafts.

Oh, Happy

Since last autumn, when I began to make some marked changes in my inner life and schedule, I have experienced moments of pure happiness. Moments so unexpected they’ve left me giddy.

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut

Is it that the circumstances in my life have changed? Not hugely. I still have many of the same struggles (finances, business stresses, health). But I think these gems I’m enjoying are the result of simply slowing down, make space in my schedule, and allowing myself to be happy. Noticing when something makes me happy. It sounds so cliche, I know. Whatever. It’s working.

Walking down the street, earbuds on, a perfect album playing in subtle harmony to the breeze wrapping around me. Amazing.

A fleeting exchange with the old lady jaywalking while I wait at the crosswalk:
“You rebel!”
“I’m a wild thing,” she laughs.

The recently discovered sweet, seductive warmth of scotch.

Black coffee, on a quiet morning, with nowhere to be.

The hush during a heavy snowfall.

Words on paper written by a brilliant mind, leaving me gasping for air, heart pounding, or wiping away tears.

Tiny, simple bits of life. So easily grasped if I am aware. How have I let myself miss them these last few years? I won’t waste much time on regrets or worry that I’ll miss more in the future. I just want to be.

“In this story
we sit down on Luna Bridge
and catch snow in our cupped hands
and music is coming from the houses
or it sings inside me
I begin to mind

Oh happy, oh happy, the end,
the end, the end.

In this painting
the whole world is navy blue
I run home from the mailbox
in all the dim of five o’clock
to see you.

Cars and trees go by me,
you are in the yard
and in my arms again

Oh happy, oh happy, the end,
the end, the end
Happy, oh happy
the end.”
– The Innocence Mission


Ignorance & Dignity

A fear laid bare in one sentence: I am afraid of sounding ignorant.

I work hard to conceal the gaps in my understanding and knowledge. I can retain a fair amount of trivial information, thereby sounding more well-rounded than I actually am. The rest of the time, I keep quiet so as not to betray my ignorance. As a proverb says:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”

The internet becomes handy when dealing with emails and online conversations. Multi-tab browsing and a quick trip to a search engine can solve many a problem. People drop references, quotes, trivia which I can then toss into a search field and pop back to my friends with a smile emoji and perhaps the next line in a lyric.

This fear has an upside: I’ve learned to find things for myself. How do I do this in InDesign? There’s help and tutorials at my fingertips. What does this word mean? I can look it up. Which song was David Bowie’s first hit single? Hello, internet! What’s the best way to truss a bird for roasting? Thank you, plethora of YouTube videos!

Some people learn better by asking and walking through it with someone else. As much as I realize this is just another learning style, it confuses me that people would so brazenly announce their ignorance. Unable to understand, I find it repulsive and admirable at the same time.