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?