A few weeks ago, I read a super cool piece on Medium.com about creation.
It’s bothered me ever since.
Not the post, so much as the video at the end.
It was called “So You Want to be a Writer” by Charles Bukowski.
I’ll summarize it for you. So you want to be a writer?
1) Don’t do it
2) Don’t do it
3) Especially if it doesn’t come BURSTING out of you, DON’T DO IT
I call bullshit.
Sometimes, that which we are called to do is absolutely, positively, painfully freaking difficult.
Sometimes, when we are young, when we are learning, it doesn’t come bursting out. It can’t yet. We don’t have the skill.
Sometimes, the thing we dream of the most, is so overwhelming it intimidates us. It recoils us. It makes us resist and avoid and hide in fear.
That absolutely, positively, doesn’t for one single second mean that we shouldn’t do it.
I learned this lesson myself in my journey to become an equestrian.
Has the idea of being a great rider and horse-obsessed woman come BURSTING out of me throughout my whole life? Not really. Only at the very beginning and the very end. That whole journey through the middle? It was a mess. And the whole “horse thing” wasn’t really bursting out of me.
When I look back, this is roughly what that 25-year journey looked like:
- Be obsessed with the idea of horses. At 3 years old, shout “foe-tee” at every horse you see because you can’t pronounce the word “pony.”
- Start with pony rides. Basic lessons. Part by will, part by not having a choice, because if your parents think you are into horses and then stick you in pony camp or on a horse’s back, you go.
- Get the idea at 10 years old that you want to be a “serious” rider because it looks cool and sounds like a good idea. Convince your parents to sign you up for dressage lessons. Show up at every lesson terrified, because you are way outside your comfort zone every time you do it, and the stuff you’re learning is really hard. (Come to think of it, so is the ground, which is a long way down from the top of a horse.)
- Take the logical next step and beg for a horse of your own. Thank your lucky stars your grandma gave you savings bonds as a kid and cash them all in for a horse all your own at 12 years old.
- Stay relatively devoted, do some cool stuff, attend some fun shows, learn to jump.
- Start rejecting and resisting this thing you know you have skill at. Realize you’ll never go to the Olympics because you don’t have the money. Decide that focusing on your super-important social circles and new boyfriend as a 17 year old High School senior is way more awesome. Start riding less. Look at going to the barn as a chore.
- Continue rejecting this part of yourself through college. Lease your horse out to someone else. Completely take him for granted. Completely disown your skills.
- Take advantage of an opportunity to have your horse back in your life at 22. Start riding again…slowly…one day a week.
- Realize that you’re actually super skilled in this area, remember how much hard work it took you to get that skilled, and that you were insane for ever rejecting it. Take your horse back full-time at 23.
- Have a small crisis as to how you’ll ever afford your horse on your own, but do it anyway. Move him with you across the country at 28. Live and breathe this creative outlet in your life. Add a second horse to your collection. Seriously consider having your head examined. Create new art with your new horse. Train him to do stuff. Fully identify as a horse-person, not as a fake, not as an impostor, not as a less-than. Realize that you are completely mental when you don’t ride often enough. Ride a lot. Like 6 days a week a lot. Finally settle in to this part of your self, this part of your life, this part of your creative musings, and let it come bursting out of you.
My writing has taken a similar path, but I’m not as far along it yet. I’m somewhere in the realm of Phases 6-8, and also not sure I spent enough time in Phases 3 and 5. It’s a work in progress.
And right now? It doesn’t come bursting out of me. I think it wants to, but I don’t quite possess the skill nor the confidence nor the surrender yet to allow it.
And hearing a message like “If it doesn’t come bursting out of you, don’t do it!” pisses me off. It pays no respect whatsoever to where someone is in this process. To the idea that it doesn’t ALWAYS come bursting out…just maybe sometimes.
And that absolutely, positively, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.
It just means you might not yet be at the point in your calling or your craft where it does come pouring out.
It just means you have to keep marching a little bit longer. Or maybe take a break for a while. Or maybe get some more training. Or maybe get lost in life so you can realize what really matters to you, and appreciate it and attack it with a new vigor.
Because lord knows my fiction writing does not come pouring out of me. And lord knows that even though it’s painful, and totally scary right now (like riding once was), I sure as hell am going to keep working at it.
And maybe, one day, if I keep marching and I’m really lucky, it will come bursting out of me.
I hope the same is true for you.