Stop pretending art is hard

creativity
This post is inspired by the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week

This week, Gabriela from DIY MFA challenged her Street Team members to think about creative myths that keep us from diving in and doing the work of writing. She listed these 5 myths about creativity:

  1. Creativity is an exclusive club, and you can’t be part of it.
  2. Creativity is innate–you either have it or you don’t.
  3. Creativity is driven by chaos, so there’s no way to control it.
  4. Creativity is all about getting that one “Big Idea.”
  5. Creativity is focusing on an idea until it’s perfect.

But I know of another myth, one that encompasses all of these and more, one that we all use when we’re too tired or too scared to do the writing (or painting or playing or dancing or singing or whatever your medium is).

Art is hard

This myth… this is what we’re really thinking when we tell ourselves we don’t have what it takes, when we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, or that we’re too “left-brained” to be creative. We think that the act of creating, whatever it is, it’s going to hurt. We buy into the idea that if we’re going to create something significant, something worthy, that we have to suffer for it. And if it’s easy or if we enjoy it then it’s not really art.

We’ve been fed this narrative our whole lives. But it’s bigger, older than just our generation. The trope of the starving artist was already popular in Puccini’s day. Why do you think La Boheme was such a hit? The artist must suffer and die for the sake of their art. If not, then what good is it really?

It’s ok to enjoy the creative process

Allow me to release you from the thrall of this myth. Art does not have to be hard… Art can, nay it should be drawn from the deepest seat of your pleasure and joy.

That’s not to say that you won’t be challenged by creating, or that you won’t have to practice parts of your craft to improve. But it never has to be hard. You never have to suffer in order for it to be “good.” You can come to the computer or the canvas or the keyboard or the stage joyfully. If you don’t, you have to ask yourself if what you’re trying to achieve is really worth it.

The key is confidence

Perfection is hard. Not making mistakes is hard. Measuring up to someone else’s standards is hard. But these things are not art. They don’t serve art. And they don’t bring us joy in the practice of them. Instead they make us overly cautious and afraid to try new things.

When we’re tentative and nervous and just looking for acceptance, it’s easy to feel like we’ll never measure up to the standards and expectations of the “creative club” we want to join. But if we can talk ourselves over the fear of rejection and criticism and just enjoy the process of learning as we create… That’s where the magic happens!

Stop pretending art is hard. – Amanda Palmer, The Ukulele Anthem

She’s dead right. We have to stop pretending that we’re not ready yet. Dive in. Have fun!

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

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Pocket full of (writer’s) kryptonite

writer's kryptonite
This post is part of the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week series

Last week we talked about playing to our writing strengths. Knowing your storytelling super power can help you identify the types of stories you like to write as as well, and give you an area of expertise to focus on.

But as Superman has been teaching us since 1938, any super power comes with its kryptonite. It’s a balance of power. Superhuman strength comes with superhuman weakness, otherwise we’d all be monsters.

What is your writing weakness?

So what’s your writing weakness? If you don’t already know what it is how do you find it? It’s hard to look at yourself under the harsh light of honesty and name something you’re not good at. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably really good at pretending that your weaknesses don’t exist. But that doesn’t make them go away.

Take a moment to consider your weaknesses, without being self-deprecating and naming a “weakness” that’s actually a strength (you know you do that, too… it’s practically a hallmark of being a writer). More than likely, your writer’s kryptonite is closely linked to your writing super power. Think about it. Superman’s weakness (kryptonite) came in the form of crystals from his home planet of … Krypton!

If I’m honest, my main writer’s kryptonite at the present time is finishing what I start. Simple as that. I’m sure there are craft-related weaknesses in my prose, dialogue, and story-building that I could work on (I mean, nobody’s perfect, right?). But I can’t get feedback on things like that if I don’t actually complete a project and turn it over so that others can read it in the first place.

Turn those writing weaknesses around

Best thing about knowing what your writing weaknesses are is that you can figure out how to combat those weaknesses. Superman, knowing that kryptonite leaves him vulnerable and weak, chooses to avoid it. There’s not much he can do to change his weakness. But you! Your writing weaknesses are totally beatable. How? Take a class, get some feedback, practice practice practice!

It’s also important to remember that your writer’s kryptonite will change. As you begin to identify and combat your writing weaknesses, new ones will crop up and need your attention. The awesome thing is that you’ll be strengthening your craft with each weakness you take on and overcome!

So let’s empty our pockets-full of kryptonite and get on with the business of becoming stronger writers telling the best stories we can.

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

When the going gets tough, real writers…

unnamed
This post is part of the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week series

You know the saying… “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley…” (Thank you, Robert Burns). It’s our way of mourning the death of every New Year’s resolution… If you’re anything like me, you start out the year with the best intentions (#writeeverydamnday). You may have even had a plan for how you were going to accomplish your goals.

But what plan doesn’t run into kinks? Sometimes the kinks are nothing more than the common cold or sleeping through your alarm a couple of times, but other times major life stuff comes up that you can’t just get around dealing with. That’s how life goes. We all know it’s true. Having a plan for how you’re going to accomplish your goals when everything is going smoothly is one thing. What’s your plan for when everything “Gang aft agley”?

What Real Writers Do

If you’re the kind of person who never makes a false move, you’re probably not reading this blog, and obviously I’m not writing this post for you. Honestly, you’re the person we all aspire to be… but you’re also the person who makes the rest of us feel shitty when real life gets in our way. Why can’t our lives go perfectly, too?

Lofty goals of writing  (Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, “and only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”) are all well and good, but come on. Who has the time/energy/resources to live up to Stephen King’s standards?

So if you don’t live up to that prescriptive method (or anyone else’s list of things that “real writers” do) does that mean you’re not a real writer? Or that you don’t take your craft seriously?

No freaking way. You should always have goals, always set out for the top of the mountain. The good news is, you don’t have to feel shitty when you have to stop before you get there. Because let’s face it, it’s gonna happen. And your writing life (career/identity/dream/whatever you call it) should be built to take it. How?

My friend Gabriela at DIY MFA* calls it “Honoring Your Reality.” Also known as Elisabeth’s Second Commandment: Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s.

The secret is recognizing what you need in order to be the most happy, healthy, productive person, and doing that. It doesn’t matter that Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. How many words a day can you write? Or maybe it’s how many words a week? Whatever your number and time-span is, own it. Be proud of yourself for getting any words out at all. IMO, some words are better than no words. The actual number and time spent writing varies from moment to moment.

Honor Your Reality

For me, the more I allow myself to do what I need to do, the easier I find to make time for the things that really matter to me. And right now, writing is one of them. But sometimes it’s making sure I’m well rested. And sometimes it’s going out with my friends and having a new experience. Because those things, even if they take away from my writing for a day, will make me a better writer in the long run.

Who writes well when they’re exhausted? And who writes creatively and with nuance when they’ve been shut away from the world for too long (well, besides Emily Dickinson)? But see? Even she honored her reality. She could have said, “I’ll never be a real writer because I haven’t seen enough of the world.” And we all would have missed out on the beautiful brilliance of her voice and her perspective.

And sometimes there are even heavier issues than just being worn out or needing to get out for a while. Sometimes life throws you a real curve ball… When that happens you have to give yourself the space and grace to do what you can when you can. The alternative is living with pain and guilt and shame. And, having been down that road before, I’d advise against it.

So you, yeah you. What’s your reality? What do you do when the going gets tough and you’re struggling to find the time to write? Do you make yourself feel terrible for it? Because you should stop that right now. Figure out what you need to be the person you want to be. And then go do it! That’s what “real writers” do. We write. And we also live.

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!