I have never considered myself to be a creative person. I have been a singer, but not a musician. I have acted, but never ever thought of myself as an actor. I inherited none of my father’s ability to draw and paint. I’m a good cook, a competent (but not brilliant) photographer, and at a very young age I knew I could have been a decent dancer if I had kept at it, but I did not. Even with all of these pursuits I never thought of myself as an artist of any stripe. In my mind, artists were the ones whose gift was obvious, their talent undeniable. When I compared myself to people I thought of as artists, I believed I was not one of them.
In college I discovered stage management as a discipline, and the first time I heard the term “theatrical technician” I knew I’d found myself. What a perfect description of me – the practical one who kept the creative types’ feet on the ground. I could stay connected to the world I loved, but I never had to reveal myself. I could hide in plain sight, no one the wiser – except for one professor who saw right through me, and who I knew I’d disappointed. I managed to push the shame of that aside and soldier on, convinced I had finally found my calling.
I was always a good writer, but not of stories or poems. I strongly believed that I had no gift for creative writing; any attempts I made to write stories in high school were, in my opinion (and that of my English teacher) unsuccessful. And being the person that I have always been, if I couldn’t be great at something I just wasn’t interested in doing it at all. I was used to things I wanted coming easily to me. If I perceived my goal to be too far away I would abandon it in favor of something more easily achieved. Struggling for my art was not something I wanted to do, which is why I ultimately abandoned all creative pursuits one by one. Eventually I even stopped stage managing, and for years and years I’ve done nothing creative at all outside of the kitchen. Which explains a lot.
Writing became a tool that I used to become successful at my non-creative pursuits. It wasn’t a friend helping me find my way, it was a slave I bent to my will. It was this way until my cozy life fell apart and writing became my counselor, my support and my confessor. I wrote the words of my heart in the ink of my grief. I wrote to catch hold of the pain and put it someplace outside of myself. But the time came that I didn’t have to do that anymore to survive, so I stopped.
Now I find myself writing again, and for the first time in a very long time it is for the primary purpose of creating. But even as I’ve taken the first few steps into this new world I find myself up to my old tricks – trying to find the easy way, allowing myself to be content with the early attempts, not stopping to dig too deeply. Fortunately I’ve recognized this tendency before I’ve sabotaged myself, but the realization has forced the question: do I move ahead, knowing the difficulties that I will encounter, the time it will take, and the statistical probability that I will never make a comfortable living as a writer, or do I do what I’ve done so many times and give up before I even really get started?
I have been at this decision point before, and I have always chosen the path of least resistance. Sometimes I was aware of the choice I was making, other times the opportunity to choose differently came and went so fast I didn’t see it until it was gone. Most of the time I convinced myself I was making the “right” choice, even as I ignored that soft, gentle voice that said I was making a mistake. This time, though, there don’t seem to be as many alternatives available. It’s as if I’ve used up all of my excuses, and a stronger will is pulling me in, like being caught in a whirlpool or a tractor beam.
And I can feel myself changing. Thoughts I haven’t had in years about who I am are appearing in my mind. A sudden thirst for poetry has taken hold of me out of nowhere. Ideas for stories I could write, ways of making the new memoir meaningful (not just entertaining), and fragments of poems I want to attempt are all jumping around inside my head, dying to get out. I haven’t felt this energized in decades. Not since I became afraid of making myself vulnerable, of showing the world who I am and who I was meant to be. I’m falling in love again, with words and their beauty and mystery and power. I’m still afraid; I’m not sure if that will ever change. I’m just tired of letting it stop me.