“Don’t be a writer if you can get out of it! It’s a solitary job, sometimes a rather lonely one (who’s listening? you say), and it requires relentless self-discipline. The world is not waiting with baited breath for what you turn out. A writer has to be some kind of nut to stick with it. But if, like the psalmist, you say, “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned,” then perhaps you will have to write.” Elisabeth Elliot
Words are my color and there are days when the colors bleed a blur. Phrases tangle and knot and I am simply too tired to step into the hard work of de-tangling.
Ideas come into the imaginings, uninvited, and I fidget with the workings of them. With the details of life pressing in from all sides I whisper, Hush! I don’t have time for this. You will have to wait.
If I go days without writing an essay or a journal entry or even a crafted sentence, I am actually shamed by it. It’s like I’m not being true to myself when I am not writing. This is to my detriment.
When you are hard-wired for something and you are not doing it, you burn. From the inside out.
C.S. Lewis said, “I would not know how to advise a man how to write. It is a matter of talent and interest. I believe he must be strongly moved if he is to become a writer. Writing is like a “lust,” or like “scratching when you itch.” Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”
Some think that because you have a talent for something it must be easy. Dipping the brush, grasping the melody, pounding the nail, bending the steel. Muscle and mettle are required. Those not willing to expend either of these Need Not Apply.
All art is hard.
Even the prodigy sweats.
Even the gifted strain.
What is your Art? What makes you sweat? What makes you strain because you must get it out?
Do you sew curtains or sow seeds? Do you string guitars or garden plots? Do you brush canvases, sweep workshops, squint through a lens, squint through a forger’s smoke?
When January braces cold and darkness is a regular part of the landscape the melancholy of winter will try to steal from you. It will try to steal your art; your hard-wired- gifted- from- God way to create what you alone were meant to create. You must fight back. Choose your weapon.
Paint something. Turn something on a wheel. Marry pitch and tremor.
Even when it’s hard.
And it is so very hard.
There is the obvious work in getting it right and beautiful. But then there is the shutting oneself up to get it right and beautiful, away from all the daily goings on in an attempt to make sense of all the thoughts and ramblings and gut feelings about, well, everything in the whole wide world… and this means leaving things. It means leaving others.
This has been my wrestling match for over thirty years. Especially when I’ve come away from my children. The thief awaits in this place with words that go straight to the primal maternity core: What a selfish, self-seeking mother…who are you to take time for your art?
But I have learned there is a weapon for this, too. Just put out the drumsticks and the video cameras and the notebooks and the measuring spoons and lots and lots of pencils and crayons and string and glue and fabric and broken down wood and see what your children will do with their art.
You must remain diligent. You cannot let the details of life, the upheaval of routine or the month of January keep your art from being realized. You must do your art or you will burn down from the inside out.
The only comparison to Lewis I would dare to make would be that, like him, I must get the words out. Out and away, and hopefully, in that place away from me, there will be beauty…there will be art. Words are my art. I am a writer.
For some inspiration read Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones. You will be set afire again.