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Do it or don’t do it
#creativity

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One of my favorite books on art and creativity is Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art. If you’re a creative who’s never read it, order it.

[I’ll wait a few minutes …]

Is your copy on its way now thanks to almighty Amazon? Great. Because here is where I share the part where Pressfield asks: “Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

“Do it or don’t do it.”

Here I am guys—doing it. Writing. And these days, a heck of a lot of it.

I’ve been a writer my whole life, but most of it spent writing other people’s stories, never my own. As a journalist, I believed I didn’t have it in me, this “creating characters” business. I also clung to the misbelief having a conventional upbringing meant I wasn’t interesting enough to be a writer. (A fear I’ve since discovered shared by great writers like Mad Men’s Matt Weiner.)

About five years ago, I started testing the waters writing fiction. I created an account on 750Words.com and crafted random snippets of stories, nothing great. Yet the experience gave me a taste of creating worlds of my own. I loved it.

In 2010, my husband and I traveled to Europe. On a hot July afternoon, as we were about to leave Rome, I stood behind an older couple on a set of plane risers and heard a voice tell me I was going to write a book. I wanted to laugh at the absurdity (why here? why now?) but as a woman of faith, I knew better. The last time it’d visited me was the weekend of my college Homecoming in 2001. That night I watched my future husband stride across the crowded bar of a restaurant and heard it whisper, “You’re going to marry that man.” Nearly five years to the date, I did.

Now whether you share my belief in the Holy Ghost isn’t why I’m here. I tell the story only because the memory of it reminds me again and again that writing is my calling.

For too long I’ve let fear keep me from it—fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of letting go of another creative career I had to say good-bye to first. But last summer, a few things happened, not the least of which was finishing my first novel.* I heard solid feedback about it from friends and family, one in particular who gave me this hard truth:

“I think it’s great, but I know you could do better if you quit photography and gave this your all.”**

I hemmed and hawed, playing it off like I was biding my time and writing fiction was something I’d chase seriously down the road. (Like, maybe after I retired.)

Of course this was the fear talking. Because what I’d discovered writing that book was a powerful truth: No other creative avenue affords me a state of “flow” the way writing does. (Yet another reason I believe it’s my calling.)

About a week after that phone call, as I was reading a Rolling Stone article about a country act’s debut as pop queen***, I came across a metaphor I found impossible to shake.

“At a certain point, if you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.”

I’m not sure why this particular quote of Taylor Swift’s grabbed hold of me but it did. It became the rationale I gave my designer friend, Ryan, when I called saying I was letting go of one rabbit and committing to the other—the “rabbit” I knew I’d still want to be chasing fifty years from now.

There have been those who’ve asked how could I give up a thriving photography business. Sometimes I wonder myself. Especially when writing is a brave venture promising nothing in return—not an agent, not a book deal, not the instantaneous satisfaction of a perfectly exposed photograph. What it does afford though is more flexibility (something I’ve been craving as a mom) and the best reason I can give people: It fulfills me.

So yep, this is me—doing it. Writing fiction and feeling a deep peace about the launch of this new website. While the fear of failure will always be great, I rest easier knowing even legends still face it.

Allow me to wrap things up with a final line from Pressfield:

“The more scared we are of a calling, the more we have to do it.”

Here’s to owning our callings. I hope you’ll follow me as I chase mine.

* That first book waits for revisions suggested by agents and readers. Until I get to them, I’ve begun a second novel (a YA tale about two estranged brothers) that I’m loving as a work-in-progress just as much!

** Jasmine, I hope I’ve paraphrased you well … thank you for always having my best interests at heart!

***I have since listened to 1989 an embarrassing number of times. I guess I’m a #swiftie now?

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  • Allison

    All the best wishes for your writing endeavors, Gail! Congrats on the new site and on cutting the tether. It’s lovely—I can’t wait to look around!

    • gw_admin

      Allison,
      Thank you SO MUCH for leaving me this note! I appreciate the love and support!

  • Jaqueline Faria

    Can’t wait to read all your future writing Gail. And you spoke so much truth in this one post. I’m cheering for you 🙂

    • gw_admin

      Jaqueline,
      You are SUCH a sweetheart. I appreciate you!

  • Anastasia Mily

    Gail, you have been an inspiration to me since the moment I read your guest post on Jasmine Star’s blog on having a full time job and having a photography business. You stay true to yourself and you follow your dreams, you listen to your calling – not many of us do it, staying in the comfort of the known. I have no any doubts your books will be much loved by many!

    • gw_admin

      Ahhh thank you SO much for saying this to me Anastasia! I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts (esp on listening to your calling!) and I hope I can prove you right with my future books! Wish me luck!

  • Kelly Stanley

    Oh. Such truth. I had goosebumps reading it. You described that feeling perfectly—all of it, the fear, the exhilaration. And the last line from Pressfield brought a rush of tears. So scary. And yet? Can’t think of a thing I would want to do more.

    I’ve told people that even though I’m a graphic designer and I (used to) make sterling silver jewelry, writing fulfills my artistic, creative side more than either of those ever did. I understand how you can give up your photography to pursue writing, I really do. Proud of your bravery. And cheering you on all the way!

    • gw_admin

      Oh Kelly–thank you SO much! Your comment made me smile. In large part because, holding YOUR book in my hands this week, I’ve seen you find success with this writing journey and that is SUCH an inspiration! Especially as a fellow mama with a day job! I appreciate you!!!! xoxo

  • Alicia Caine

    ::applause:: Loved this so much! Having also walked away from a thriving photography career to pursue business coaching & writing – I felt this deeply.

    You so got this! Can’t wait to see your book(s)!

    • gw_admin

      Thanks Alicia! So great to hear!

  • Sara Mac

    Holy cow Gail this spoke to me. This part by far… “The more scared we are of a calling, the more we have to do it.” Completely agree with this and it’s soooo hard to follow that but it’s worth it. So proud of you girl, go feel the fear and do it anyway!

    • gw_admin

      Oh you’d love War of Art then, Sara! I hope you get a chance to read it! And thank you from the bottom of my heart for being one of those friends I hold so dear who give me the confidence I need to chase this dream!

  • Elizabeth

    Found you through the lovely Jasmine Star, and thanking my lucky stars I did. This post reduced me to tears as I sit emotionally drowning in a gray cubicle. You’re an inspiration. Dreams I talk about jokingly are the ones that mean the most – thanks for reminding me to be brave and consider dropping the jokes for real-life actions.

    Best of luck to you on everything, I think you’re going to be an amazing writer 🙂

    • gw_admin

      Thank you SO much Elizabeth! Hang in there and know everyone shares those doubts. I’m just foolish enough to have the faith to hang my dreams up on a clothesline because I’ve gotten to an age where I think, even if I fail, there is still something to be said for the effort 🙂

  • Abby W

    I’ve been following you a long time – and while I’ve always LOVED your work and hope you at least still do it on the side for fun, I am excited to follow along about your new venture in writing! You are awesome because you are following what your heart is telling you! Wishing you the best of luck!!

    • gw_admin

      Thank you Abby! And yes, I do still plan on shooting some on the side but it will be such a close knit group of clients I didn’t feel right advertising as a business any longer. But if you keep your eye on my IG in the future, I’ll occasionally share any work I do there!

  • Inna

    Gail, i am so happy to see you following your dream!!! You know I love your photography ( and we have a proof that I do

    • gw_admin

      Forever grateful my photography career allowed me to meet you and your lovely family!

  • Christina

    Thank you SO much for this. Two weeks ago, I made the bittersweet decision of hanging my camera up to spend more time with my family & also to pursue my essential oil business that is seemingly exploding out of nowhere. I just don’t have time for everything and I felt spread thin, doing a lot of everything but not my best at anything. My husband and kids were neglected the most and they’re the ones I love the most…so this decision is bringing our family much relief. Best wishes to you in your adventures in writing. Thank you for sharing your heart! Oh and I have listened to 1989 way too much, too! (And I’m 32!)

  • David

    i am so flipping proud of you! I know the world you came from and the world you are choosing now. It’s tough, but you said it best, this is the resistance you must choose to overcome, because it’s not going away any time soon. I am so excited to follow you on your new path! Good luck on your new journey! May you always find the right word at the right moment!

  • Abby

    I stumbled upon your blog via Instagram. These words are so inspiring to me! I too find myself with a changing dream, and have had trouble articulating it, even to myself. This said it all. Thank you!

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