It’s an honest question.
One I aim to answer by writing my way to it.
I got started writing when I was really little. My maternal grandmother used to have me over for the weekend from time to time. She didn’t have cable and I was born in ’83, so there wasn’t smartphones, tablets, laptops, or even internet. (Or whatever internet there was, it wasn’t available to the masses.)
So in a tiny Michigan farming community, with no other kids to play with, nothing electronic to steal my attention for a few hours, my grandmother got out an old Royal typewriter. (I have a Royal now, but it’s not hers; I found it at an estate sale a few years ago. Looks and feels exactly how I remember hers though.) When she had a chore to do, an errand to run, or just needed some quiet–out came the typewriter. I don’t remember any of the childish stories I wrote on it, but I remember the feeling of birthing something into the world. Where once there was a blank page, there’s now life. It was the first time I felt powerful. Again, I was probably 7 or 8.
Maybe 4th or 5th grade I was in the car with my mom. I can’t remember what led into it, but I told her I was going to write a novel someday. She was more or less like, Mmm, ok…
Yes and no. Yes in that I wrote stuff in a notebook or spare pieces of paper all the time. All the time.
No in that there was no process–first draft, second draft, editing, revising, rewriting, feedback, etc…–at that time. I didn’t really understand how real writers did it. Their stuff was so smooth. It just grabbed you by the face. My stuff didn’t do that. So I threw away 98% of everything I wrote because I thought it sucked, and therefore I sucked as a writer.
(This is something people do to themselves all to often, I’ve found, which is why I started a podcast to encourage the “average person” to get in touch with their creative side. Check out Creative Ops if that sounds like your jam!)
High school. Sophomore history. We were learning about the Holocaust. We were given the option to write a historical fiction for the final project. I knew that would be the least painful option for me, a kid with a bad attitude and barely a 2.0GPA.
So I wrote a story about a young Jewish boy who makes it almost all the way to the liberation, but dies just before being freed. The whole class was practically in tears. Granted the subject was the Holocaust…
I hate flying.
Taking off, turbulence, landing. I very much dislike all parts of the process. One time I was on a plane and happened to have my journal in my carryon. I was extremely anxious and started feeling physically uncomfortable–my neck was tight and my stomach was upset. I started writing in my journal about the flight, how uncomfortable I was, and so on. Within minutes I was experiencing ataraxy and aponia. Ataraxy is defined as “a state of serene calmness”. Aponia is defined as “the absence of physical pain”. That’s when I realized that writing has a meditative power that’s practically medicinal.
This article from Medium talks about Epicurus, a famous stoic dude from way back in the dizzay, who talked in depth about this stuff.
And ever since then, if I get to weird and anxious, my wife tells me, “Go write or go for a run. Or both.”
Man…I didn’t. Haha. Every time I publish one of these blogs my heart skips a beat. What if this is garbage and everyone who reads it thinks it’s terrible? I have those thoughts. But I remind myself that true creatives are welcoming, encouraging people. If/when you come across someone who feels the need to tell you “you suck” or “this isn’t any good” are probably sad and hurt because they have something inside themselves they can’t or won’t express and it kills them inside.
It’s definitely one of those easier-said-than-done type of things. I don’t know if this’ll work for you, but these stoic quotes help me when I’m in my head:
There’s kind of a theme there, eh? It’s kind of like saying, Don’t read the comments on your favorite YouTube videos, just enjoy the content you enjoy. Same-same when it comes to however you express your creativity. Enjoy it because you enjoy it, not because you want someone to tell you how talented you are. No external factors will ultimately contribute to your happiness.
Write. Or paint, or fix up old cars, or repair and reupholster furniture. Whatever your creative thing is, do it. Do it for yourself, even if you share it with the world. Then you’ll never be disappointed. I mean…rarely. Life still kicks you in the nuts, or what-have-you, sometimes. But a little artistic expression will help with the pain.
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five! Follow me: