In the equestrian world when you’re getting ready to ask your horse to jump (and you’re scared, you doubt, you hesitate) what you need to do is to throw your heart over the fence…and then jump after it. That’s what we have to do as writers, artists, and musicians. We have to take that wild daring leap. There are no promises of the outcome–if your novel will be published, if your short story will be be accepted, if your painting/sculpture will be accepted into an exhibition, or your song will find its audience. That’s not really your concern. You are to do one thing: Leap.
Maybe that’s why so many of us toy with our art. We don’t take it serious. We piddle (mydictionary.com tells me that this means an act of urination, to spend time in trifling activities–and that this word is probably a blend from two other words–piss and puddle) .
We allow the glitter of distraction to lure us down yet another path. We pick up new hobbies. Knitting. Cycling. Making our own sushi. We download a new playlist. Rewatch the last season of Downton Abbey. We blame the “new economy” for a tougher, leaner publishing world. Besides, readers are more interested in fluff than true literary work (we tell ourselves that fluff is beneath us).
To leap is a scary thing. Not only do you risk rejection, you risk disappointment.
Julia Cameron reminds us in Letters to a Young Artist that to become discouraged literally means to lose heart.
Couer is French for heart–dis-courage. Julia says, “When we become dis-couraged we move away from our heart and what it knows and loves.”
Courage is a matter of the heart.
That’s why the Lion in the Wizard of Oz was given a badge of courage that he wore over his heart.
As tenacious as I am when it comes to my art, I too, lose heart. Doubt swirls.
You’re not that good. Give it up. Just be happy, be happy with your life and don’t torture yourself. The world doesn’t need another writer. If you had put this much effort into a career you would be making 100K+. You missed your opportunity. You’re lazy, that’s your problem. You don’t want to work hard. You like being different. Why don’t you get with the program. Earn your keep. Earn some freakin’ money and get your own IRA. What is it –really–that you do all day/night/weekend?
Some days it starts early in the morning. It’s not a conscious thought. It’s a niggling in the back of me somewhere.
For the most part I fight it. I ignore it.
Sometimes I imagine another me.
I could be a mixologist. I’m a people person. Food/drink, I love. Showing up each night and being “on.” It’s part chemistry, part intuition. Dress down, but cool, like I’m not trying…this old thing? I got it at a thrift store in SoHo. The boots were my grandmother’s. Here’s your drink. Call it a Red Badge.
I could do it.
I could be a park ranger. Tell stories all day–at Ellis Island, or repair fencing in Montana and figure out what to do about the ever growing coyote population. I might need to drive a few of them to northern Canada, get lost on the way. At least I would be outside breathing in God’s air, not chained to the desk leg of corporate life. I could rock a pair of tight fitting Dickies pants, hell, I could wear a dickey under my park ranger boy scout looking shirt, but I’d have to lose the hat. The hat looks like the guy in Curious George.
I could move to New York. Get into fashion. Get into acting. Go back to school and get a Ph.D. is art history and become a curator. Or…I could open a junque shop. Collect oddities and paint on the siding. Murals that take decades. I could get written up in my local paper and they’d take a photograph of my wall. My hodge-podge shop would have to have a cat you’d find unexpectedly in an overturned enamel percolator or on top of a pyramid of books. And a Saint Bernard, every store needs a big sweet sleepy dog that lays right in the middle of things greeting customers with only the lift of his droopy lids. I’d create still-lifes out of stuffed ravens, old superman comic books, and the blue percolator with the cat in it.
Oops. I did it, I slid back into the arts. That’s the problem.
At the root of me beats an artist’s heart. A rebel. A naughty child with a potty mouth. A pseudo-philosopher. A star-dazer. Belly-button gazer.
So I’m back full circle.
I have to figure things out and I do that with words. I do that with color. I eavesdrop and peek around corners. I want to know stuff about other people, about me. I want to tell a story, a story that makes you forget to breathe, that makes you forget that you’re sitting or standing or wherever the hell you are or whatever the hell you were doing before. I want to tell you a story that messes with you–big time. I want you to bump into your beliefs like you side-step dance with a stranger who just won’t get out of your way. This way, that, no you go this way, I’ll go that.
I guess it comes down to this.
I want time.
Time to wander through the aisles of an Indian grocery, to unscrew the top of lilac water, to pick up some prickly over-sized avocado shaped thing with a green and yellow striped rind and wonder how they cook it. Boiled? With curry? I want to ask someone but I am a foreigner in this produce department. Wary eyes turn away. So this is what that feels like.
Time to sit on the subway and miss my stop because a guy with a banjo has just broke into a bluesy rendition of Dixie, his few teeth the color somewhere between banana peel and mango, his wrinkled fingers two-stepping over taut strings. I want to know him, where he slept last night and whose arms held him twenty years ago. I want to taste the gas station coffee he sips black and cold. I want to sit here with my ankles hugging each other with Dixie wafting in and through me.
I want time, which is rather ironic since time is more or less an illusion.
I want to tell that other me who worries about my IRA to be patient.
It’ll all work out.
I just need a little more time.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…
It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
– Albert Einstein