Thursday Writing: I haven’t been writing, and it’s okay

Things are not difficult to make; what is difficult is putting ourselves in the state of mind to make them.

–Constantin Brancusi

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Back when I was a grad student, if people asked what I did, I could tell them. If I wanted to sound fancy (as I often did), I would say “I’m an academic” instead of “I’m a lowly grad student” (the “lowly” being unspoken but understood), but it was still a clear-cut answer. Then I left school, and things got more complicated. After I got the literacy job, I still thought of myself as a creative seeker, but I used the job as an easy answer for the “what do you do?” question. When we moved here, I didn’t have a job to hide behind anymore… until I started selling on Etsy, and that became my easy answer. Now, after VONA and finding focus with the family history project, I’m not hiding anymore. I’ve begun telling people I’m a writer, or a writer-artist, or that I’m working on a graphic novel, or that I write and draw: the terminology itself remains difficult, but the answer itself has become easy. And that feels pretty good.

Since I decided to make the shop less of a priority — which was a recent decision — I’ve been telling more and more people about my writing/drawing/graphic novel work. I’m learning not to smile self-deprecatingly, or hurry to qualify it with “not yet published,” when I do so. Sometimes it feels weird, talking about it; thanks to the FabMo show, I actually haven’t done very much writing lately. I could, as I have been wont to do in the past, let this worry me, make me insecure: “What does it mean that I’m not writing? Does it mean I’m not cut out to be a writer?” But I’m not letting in these thoughts. The work will come, either in the second week of November as I’ve planned, or earlier. There’s no need to worry about it now, when a break feels so needed and so delicious.

A month ago I was reading this Biz Ladies post on avoiding creative burnout, and when I got to #2 and its mention of creative cycles, I wanted to jump out of my chair and shout, “YES! THANK YOU!” Why is it so hard for us to recognize that everything has ups and downs, including what we’re supposed to be good at? The Artist’s Way was the first time anyone had ever told me that creativity needs to be nurtured and protected, and that fallow periods are not ominous signs but natural phases of the creative process. In her lovely book about women and risk (which I need to add to my Inspirations page), Nicky Marone points out that frustration is a natural phase too, one that begets creativity. Once I started writing regular morning pages, I could see it for myself (again and again, in fact). Now that I know this, instead of saying, “Oh dear, I haven’t been writing and I’m so ashamed and worried,” I can say, “Of course I haven’t been writing! I’ve been immersed in the visual and physical creativity of making lots of beautiful crafts! Once I transition out of that, I’ll be more than ready to take on the family history!” And I know it’s true, because even as I feel like I’m doing nothing, I can see that in the past few days I’ve done a lot on my shop, tidied my office, contacted friends, and begun yoga and quiet time again. I’m letting the craft-show state of mind slip away, and I’m laying the groundwork for focused writing and art time. See, little anxious voice? I know what I’m doing. You can relax now.