Creatives hold more power than we are usually willing to admit. We can make things happen, and happen in such a way that benefits and strengthens our creativity.
There isn’t a good enough reason to choose not to cultivate your creativity. Gloomy Gabs may try to suffocate our voices, but that is their jealousy getting in our way. We have to train ourselves to push that jealousy aside, but not just that, we must also USE that incident as a tool for our individual creative growth.
One day, a while back, I went out for drinks with normal people (i.e., non-writers). I had just dug myself out of a pit of despair and tanked self-worth. My novel was no good, and I considered myself a failure. I didn’t know what to do.
Even if I did know what to do, I doubt whether I had the emotional or mental strength to take action. I had two toddlers at home, and I was splitting my time between freelance jobs, mothering them and mothering my elderly mother who lived alone and refused to get home care (that’s another story).
Going out with friends was supposed to be a bright spot of the day. A chance for me to complain about all the things wrong in my world, a chance to get some much-needed sympathy from supportive friends. I had just barely returned to the book-that-didn’t-work and I was ready to try again.
When the subject of my writing came up, one of the normal people whom I didn’t really know (a friend of a friend) peppered me with questions.
What do you write?
What does your family think?
And the horrible, terrible, no good very bad (thank you Judith Viorst) question:
What books have you published?
I told her I was still working on that minor detail.
She smiled in a sweet way that only her mother could love and said, “So, you aren’t, like, a real writer. It’s, like, a hobby or something. Right?”
Freeze the frame.
Now, this could have gone a few different ways. I could have allowed her to destroy that newly sprouted seed of creativity and given up on writing once and for all. I could have hit her. I could have tossed her drink in her face. I could have run from the bar, sobbing, straight into traffic.
Rather, I was inspired by her.
Inspired by a not-so-nice human displaying one of her not-so-nice qualities.
She is going to make a fantastic bad guy in my book, I remember thinking with refreshed energy.
Here’s the deal, and this is what hit me in that not-so-nice moment:
Writing is what makes a writer, bottom line. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a news article, a short story, a blog post, the next great Harry Potter, or a letter to Santa. Who cares if you’re published or not. So what if you’re on your umpteenth draft of your umpteenth story. It doesn’t matter who your audience is. If you have no plans to share your work with anyone, that’s absolutely fine. If you care about the quality of your words, sentences, message, intention, if you write with your heart — then you are a real writer.
Don’t expect a non-writer to truly comprehend the job of writing. Just smile patiently, pat them gently on the head, and shoo them away.
The writing process is so intricate and convoluted and magical, non-writers (normal people) can’t possibly understand what goes into it, or for that matter, what comes out of it.
Writers make up what could be termed a secret society, a league of story brewers who have a hard time discerning the difference between fantasy and reality. Everything they touch is a story. That requires a kind of magic that normal people can only dream of wielding.
Writers are a little on the insane side, but we make up for it in entertainment. We talk about our people and our worlds with sincerity and care, yet with a need to constantly put them through hell.
We kill off characters as quickly as we bring them to life — and we tend to be quite creative in our methods. We’re excellent at researching normal people for our projects. Normal people make damn cool writing experiments.
Whether a writer does this stuff for a living or for a hobby isn’t what normal people ought to be concerned about.
Normal people ought to wonder how closely a writer is watching them and if notes are involved.
Whenever I worry that I’m writing junk, that I’m not moving forward fast enough, that I’d be better at underwater macramé, I think about that not-so-nice woman and her expectations.
No. Her expectations don’t matter.
The only thing that is important is my own expectation. And I share this advice with you: Do not let anyone or anything make you feel less than a writer. And if not-so-nice stuff creeps into your day, use it to fill your creative well.
Don’t let it just be a thing that happened in your life. Don’t let it be just another rotten day. Don’t let it be only an annoyance, inconvenience, or bad luck. Journal it out. Add it to a book. Blog about it. Write a letter about it and send it to your kids.
Enrich your writing journey with all good, bad, and ugly things that happen to you, around you, and with you.
Write about the junk, the crap, the annoyances, your grievances—anything that angers you, saddens you, frustrates you, makes you shake your fist at the heavens and moan “Why me?!”
That’s material, that.