When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a writer. I was drawn to the magick of stories almost as soon as I arrived on the planet. I started reading at age four, and became a voracious bookworm. I took a notebook and pen everywhere I went. I loved to study and learn.
It’s pretty clear, from my current vantage point, that this was (and is) my calling.
As I grew, I was told by well-meaning adults that “writer” was not a valid career path. “You can’t make a living at it,” I heard many times. In my AP English class, we studied classic authors who were brilliant…and who were also addicted to alcohol or drugs, or had been confined in a mental institution, or had committed suicide.
Writing came easily to me, and the ideas flowed forth like a fountain, but I discounted my efforts, and listened to those who urged me to instead focus on “the real world.”
As high school came to an end, I shifted my focus to journalism.
In college, I soon found that my temperament wasn’t suited to a career as a journalist. Deadlines are stressful, and stress and my body don’t do well together. So I adjusted again, and studied broadcasting. I took a creative writing class on the side, and the professor’s self-proclaimed “tough” critiquing style turned me away from writing fiction for a couple of decades. Clearly I sucked at this writing thing, after all.
I ended up with a perfectly fine career in public radio. But it wasn’t my calling.
It took me until my early 40s to become a published author. I’m now almost 50, and I’m just beginning to make a living through my passion for words. Even setting aside that “making a living” part, when I re-dedicated myself to my calling, it brought a profound shift in my life.
What I discovered is that – for me – writing, reading, and studying is amazingly joyful work. It’s fulfilling. I get up each day eager to do my work in the world. Creativity is FUN.
My young child self knew this decades ago, but was vulnerable to the beliefs of the mainstream culture.
I know my story isn’t uncommon. It isn’t just writers – many of us who are creative and drawn to the arts are discouraged from pursuing our passions. It’s not just about the money, either. We’re fed a constant litany of stories about how freaking hard it is to create. How the creative process will destroy your life and your sanity. How it’s not “normal” to live the life of the imagination. How artists toil away in self-imposed solitary confinement, miserable and hungry.
Just try to be like everyone else, already, those voices whisper. Forget creating. Go shopping or something.
I call bullshit.
Sure, there are times when writing (or creating) is hard – in the way that any pursuit can be, on some days. But a good creative challenge is also fulfilling, uplifting, and fun.
Why do we make it harder? Why hold our fellow human beings back from indulging in the creative passions that light them up? Why the emphasis on struggle?
As a culture, we idolize those who have achieved success in the arts, particularly actors and musicians. Yet we discourage our children from bringing forth their creative talents. We cut funding for arts education. We build a solid wall between work and play.
We encourage one another to “keep the day job,” to spend our leisure time on superficial pursuits, and to ignore the whispers of the muses. As adults, we “don’t have time” to create, because we’re too busy with “more important” tasks.
It’s stupid. Let’s give it up.
Thanks for reading my rant. Next time, I’ll talk about how to go from struggling to thriving.
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