“I believe that enjoying your work with all your heart is the only truly subversive position left to take as a creative person these days … Too many artists still believe that anguish is the only truly authentic emotional experience.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert, “Big Magic”
The “One of Many” project is chronicling creative living in 12 cities. The beautiful Detroit photo essay went up, featuring an abundance of talent in the city. It was a joy to be part of this. But I want to add…
Creative living is HARD. Not just on practical terms — like how to feed yourself without debt — though that is a legit concern. Many also struggle in keeping faith that their art deserves their time and attention. (It does!)
For me, my greatest struggle — creative and otherwise — is vulnerability. I put myself out there all the time with my writing, and it takes a certain gutsy resilience to do that. My words are my offering to the world. Storytelling is in my bones; narrative is my prayer. It is one of the truest blessings in my life.
But whether I’m writing articles about other people, or staging literary programs for other writers, I keep myself in a refracted light. Present, but askant. I rarely cut clear of the Idea-Making, the Intellectualizing, and let myself be directly seen.
That’s because I’m afraid. I don’t want to take up too much space; I worry that I’ll slip into self-indulgence and narcissism. And it is hard to shake old hurts. I mean, I’ve been really rewarded throughout my life for my brainy side; at many pivotal moments, I’ve felt punished for my emotional side. So, today, being emotionally visible seizes me up. It feels unsafe. But at the same time, I don’t want this scar tissue separating You and Me. I crave connection, between our whole selves.
I feel like my creative life (which is to say, my life) is held back by my instinctual hedging, by the refraction you can see in my writing and other artsy projects. It’s stifling. And I need to breathe.
I want to cultivate the courage to make friends with my own beating heart, my vulnerability, my fears, my uncertainty. To be part of the story, not just the narrator of it.
This post is a small effort on the journey.