Monday, June 11, 2012
The Point of It All
To support my return to writing, I picked up a book by creativity guru Julia Cameron at my local library. One of the early exercises in The Right to Write posed a question that was a small mind grenade for me. The question was: What types of writing would you do just for fun?
I still have my metaphorical mouth agape over that question. I'm still having to let it echo and percolate. I'm still not sure of the answer. Heck, I can't get past the question.
In all the years of my life that I've scribbled in journals and squeezed out poems and even tried to write this blog, I'm not sure I've had much fun. A little here and there, but that was not, in my mind, what is was all about. Destiny and compulsion maybe. Catharsis sure. But fun? No, it never occurred to me to make fun the point of it all, at all.
That seems a little crazy now. I've learned belatedly that seeing how much delight one can add to a task, however necessary, like playing swing music while washing dishes, makes everything go much more happily and productively. I've mostly succeeded in giving up the grim dutifulness that led me to heart-palpitating exhaustion. I've seen the wisdom in seeking a holy kind of delight in ordinary life, which is of course much easier if I'm following my true calling. But writing? I've found it unavoidable, necessary, and insistently beckoning, but not flat out fun. It was something I had to do, not something I couldn't wait to do. The old tortured artist routine, I guess.
That's what Julia says is the problem: We put too much freight on something that we should be doing for love and loving the doing of. We succumb to fallacies ("I need a bolt of free time." Or "I must write well." Or yes, "Art requires torture.") that drain the cheeriness right out of it. We impose lofty goals on our writing instead of just showing up eagerly every day.
Maybe I have classically failed to approach this alleged love of mine with the proper rose colored glasses, and a little jolt will open my eyes to the possibility of just enjoying each other. I hope that's my only failing. I'd love to enjoy this thing that seems to need doing in my life. If I can find some pleasure in bookkeeping, surely I could enjoy writing, especially since it's supposed to be for me, not a job assigned by someone else.
I wonder if I think I want to write because it's just another layer of trying to prove myself worthy in my own eyes. The people I admire most are artists and creative types. Am I trying to be one so that I'll feel as if I'm the kind of person that I think I "should" be?
Sometimes we don't want what we think we want or need what we think we need. Alcoholics, addicts, and over eaters know about this phenomenon. They may think they want a drink, a hit, or a brownie, but what they really want might be a loving feeling or a sense of self worth.
One day I was pestered by thoughts of a dress that I didn't buy. When I investigated my feelings more closely, I realized that the core craving was really for beauty. After that realization, I no longer worried about the dress that got away. There are many routes to beauty, and I found another way that day to make some without a new dress. I was satisfied when I got what I really wanted, not what I thought I wanted.
So, do I really want to write? Do I really enjoy the process of writing? Or do I want to bare my soul in the hope of outside approval and smashing success?
If the answer to the first question is yes, than by God I want to enjoy it. I want to sit down at my computer and write out of the overflow and delight of my heart, which is the most honest and infectious reason to do anything. If the answer to the second question is yes, than I already know that I can give myself the approval I need. I will not write if I'm only using writing. It's got to be real. Relationships of any kind should be based on healthy desires not usurious need.
For several months, while I haven't been writing, I've found myself missing a creative outlet. I wanted a puttering passion to anticipate with uncomplicated eagerness. I wanted a hobby in the best sense of the word, an activity that I could enjoy and yet find fruitful. I wanted to dust my hands off after a good tinkering-about time, relishing output without pressure. Frankly, I wanted play with dividends.
Why in heaven's name did I not treat my writing that way? Because there has always been too much torture about being good or discovered, and too little freedom to play, trust my instincts, be unabashedly me. This has got to stop.
The blockage and misinterpretation, I mean. Not the writing. Unless I'm really not doing this for love. I'll be considering the question further. If I don't start having mostly fun pronto, I'll know what to do, and the tiny portion of the world that sees these words will no longer have to suffer them. If I can start making this a dance, then I intend to enjoy every word, even if no one else does.