Here’s a picture of me drinking from a coconut. And yes, I did cut all my hair off.
It’s been a while since I’ve said just that–hello!–to you. During this last year, it was freeing to step back from the spotlight of this blog and simply gather portraits, like a child collecting sea shells. There’s less responsibility in that, I think. (I have not created the shells!) But now, I am ready to reappear for a bit.
This is the end of my portrait series…for now.
In many ways, I feel my project was a wordy worldwide parallel to Humans of New York. Even now, though his books are published and “finished,” Brandon Stanton continues to update his Instagram every once in a while. I intend to do the same.
Perhaps the original goal of the project was to prove to myself, I could stick with something long-term besides my previous dabbling. To prove to myself I am a writer.
There is a definite difference between saying “I am an aspiring writer” and “I am a writer.” In the States, surrounded by people with leisure time and apparent dedication to their relative creative mediums, I daily questioned if I myself could even dare approach the altar of artistic expression.
Even after graduate school (the most encouraging creative community I have ever had!), my doubts remained. But then I went overseas. And it took this season of artistic solitude to realize I’ve been defining the idea of artistry all wrong.
What is art?
What makes an artist?
Who defines “the best”?
Does it matter?
One day, I realized: it didn’t.
It felt like my soul was crying out to me–when I would pick up an excellent piece of fiction or prance my way through someone’s beautiful new essay. It seemed to be saying,
Yeah, you. The Lonely Creative Soul with a Dream that feels too big for you.
You are a writer.
It’s what you do.
You may die with your work never having been published. (Not that you should give up all hope!) But if it’s the thing you do anyway because you love it, does it matter THE END of your creative means?
So hop to it, sister.
I dream of painting and then I paint my dream. ~Vincent Van Gogh
There were some cheerleaders in my corner, certainly. Between my grad school mentor Dale, Jeff Goins, Donald Miller, Rachael Stephen, and Elizabeth Gilbert, I had no hope of walking away with defeated hands in my pockets. But in listening to them and moving on with my life and my work, I did learn a few things:
“You can’t find your passion if you don’t push through pain.” ~ Jeff Goins, The Art of Work
“You are not Stephen King.” ~ Rachael Stephen, “Let’s All Stop Calling Ourselves Pantsers and Plotters”
“When you stop expecting ________ to be perfect, you can like [it for what it is.]” ~ Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
“Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where-if you missed it by age 19-you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world-at any age. At least try…” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Have you been afraid of your dreams?
Let me be the first (of MANY encouragers out there) to tell you:
To borrow an idea from Gilbert’s grand creative narrative…Fear is a natural roadtripping buddy. You can’t get in the car and go anywhere without him. But he needs rules. Because he’s a wee bit of a control freak and likes to take charge of, well, anything left unattended. Don’t let him dictate where you go, how often you stop, IF you stop, what music to listen to. And by aLLLLL means, do NOT let him drive (check BIG MAGIC for a much more whimsical beautiful vision of this).
All that to say, move forward anyways. Stop looking for approval. Stop worrying if people think you or your art is weird (weird is great!). Stop checking the stats on your blog. Stop trying to figure out how on earth your art could possibly support you (my vote is don’t; art has fragile bones and can’t take the pressure of your cushy Western lifestyle. Go wait tables or something).
And that’s why I’m here, full-time job and all.
Get to it.
Resources for the Ones in Need of Cheerleaders
Jeff Goins … I’d tell you more about him, but if you checked out that quote up there and liked what you saw, you should let him tell you more about himself. Inspiration and motivation guaranteed. (Subscribe to his mailing list!) Here’s an interview about finding your calling.
Donald Miller … Your story matters. If you’ve never read Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you need to do that today.
Rachael Stephen … If you want to laugh and get a bit of tough love in the Hunger Games arena that is FICTION WRITING, check her out!
Elizabeth Gilbert … duh. She even has a podcast.