Monday, July 7, 2014

When It Gets Hard

I hate writing. What I really love is reading. I tell people I became a professional writer so I could be a professional reader. (Adam Phillips: “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”) - Austin Kleon
Lately I've been struggling with motivation. I've been back at work for two and a half months now and I'm fully reminded of why I took the time off in the first place. We all have to find time for our art, personal or otherwise; that's not a new struggle for any of us. I'm good about making time, before work, after work, on weekends. But even when I do make the time, I have no flow. It takes me a while to get back into the rhythm of creation, and by the time I do, I've run out of time. My progress feels very stilted, jagged.

Like Austin, I got into this because I love art, and particularly concept art. I love looking at it and imagining the worlds. But it's one thing to love it, and an entirely different thing to make it. When all is going well, I love making concept art even more than I love looking at it. But when it's hard, well. I love it less. To say the least.

I find that when I start feeling low, like this is too much work, why am I doing this to myself, I'm no good at this, I don't even like this, etc. etc., the universe conspires to remind me to keep pushing, that it's worth it. Like the video below from Brothers in Art, which a former classmate of mine posted a few days ago:

Or this passage from Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, which I'm currently reading (apologies for the wall of text, but this whole passage really hit me in the gut right when I needed to hear it):

     "You never turned in your story," Professor Piper said. "Did something happen?"
     "I just..." Cath started again. "I realized I'm not cut out for fiction-writing."
     Professor Piper blinked and pulled her head back. "What are you talking about? You're exactly cut out for it. You're a Butterick pattern, Cath - this is what you were meant to do."
     It was Cath's turn to blink. "No, I... I kept trying. To start the story. I... look, I know how you feel about fanfiction, but that's what I want to write. That's where my passion is. And I'm really good at it."
     "I'm sure you are," Professor Piper said. "You're a natural storyteller. But that doesn't explain why you didn't finish your final project."
     "Once I realized it wasn't right for me, I couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. I just wanted to move on."
     Professor Piper regarded Cath thoughtfully. [...] "Why do you keep saying that it wasn't right for you?" the professor asked. "Your work last semester was excellent. It was all right. You're one of my most promising students."
     "But I don't want to write my own fiction," said Cath, as emphatically as she could. "I don't want to write my own characters or my own worlds - I don't care about them. I care about Simon Snow. And I know he's not mine, but that doesn't matter to me. I'd rather pour myself into a world I love and understand than try to make something up out of nothing."
     The professor leaned forward. "But there's nothing more profound than making something out of nothing." Her lovely face turned fierce. "Think about it, Cath. That's what makes a god - or a mother. There's nothing more intoxicating than creating something from nothing. Creating something from yourself."
     Cath hadn't expected Professor Piper to be happy about her decision, but she hadn't expected this either. She didn't think the professor would push back. "It just feels like nothing to me," she said.
     "You'd rather take - or borrow - someone else's creation?"
     "I know Simon and Baz. I know how they think, what they feel. When I'm writing them, I get lost in them completely, and I'm happy. When I'm writing my own stuff, it's like swimming upstream. Or... falling down a cliff and grabbing at branches, trying to invent the branches as I fall."
     "Yes," the professor said, reaching out and grasping the air in front of Cath, like she was catching a fly. "That's how it's supposed to feel."
     Cath shook her head. There were tears in her eyes. "Well, I hate it."
     "Do you hate it? Or are you just afraid? [...] You can't do anything with fanfiction. It's stillborn."
     "I can let people read it. Lots of people do read it."
     "But you can't make a living that way. You can't make a career."
     "How many people make a career out of writing anyway?" Cath snapped. "I'll write because I love it, the way other people knit, or... or scrapbook. And I'll find some other way to make money."
     Professor Piper leaned back and folded her arms. "I'm not going to talk to you any more about fanfiction [...] but I'm not done talking to you." Cath took another deep breath. "I'm afraid," Professor Piper said, "afraid that you're never going to discover what you're truly capable of. That you won't get to see - that I won't get to see - any of the wonder that's inside of you. You're right, nothing you turned in last semester compared to Simon Snow and the Mage's Heir. But there was so much potential."

© Gina Florio 2014

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