The three most important truths for creatives: Part 1
What are the three most important truths for creatives?
Part 1: Work
The first truth to adopt as a creative is to do the work.
It’s not as if I believe that when we creatives are studying, we’re not working, but I have noticed that as a writer, my hardest job so far as been to—well—write.
I read once in some book about writing that we should be careful not to let our “writing time” become our “study time” or “reading time”. Well, let me say that that suggestion is very hard to follow.
It’s hard to follow because I’m naturally afraid, like most, of what will come out when I’m truly myself. So I hide behind the backs of the greats. The people I admire. Thomas Merton. Henri Nouwen. Lewis. MacDonald. Tolkien. How did they do it? How did they write so well and think so well? How were they so versed in study and yet remained productive? Made a living? How did they write so much?
So I tell myself I’ve just got to read some more before I can write my own stuff. But my brother recently told me otherwise. I don’t need to read another book to get writing. That’s just an excuse. I simply need to write. Studying and reading had become, for me, a way of hiding from the truth of what it was that I wanted to say. It had become a way of staying safe inside the curated thoughts of others until I felt like I was ready to jump out of the nest and write my own great piece of literature on the first go-around.
Everybody writes junk on their first go-around, no matter how many times they’ve gone around. Professional, not professional…everybody is in the same boat. You work, you edit, you repeat.
When the time for creation becomes a time when we seek out what others have created, we have traded creativity for wishful thinking. That if we just spend time with the greats, we’ll become great.
I’m not saying don’t be inspired. Or don’t spend time learning from the masters. After all, every great writer is a great reader. But the reading and inspiration must not hijack the time carved out for our creative process. Hang their quotes up on the wall, read their books before you go to bed at night, discover their habits, but by all means, get to work. Get to work on your own work. Get to work on your ideas, your heart, your vision.
If all I do is try to be Thomas Merton—write like him and re-create his beautiful sentences, have his thoughts—all I will end up becoming is an awkward facsimile. The world doesn’t need another Thomas Merton. He already came, went, and left his mark. Don’t try to copy what has already been done.
At some point, we’ve all got to face the facts of who we are.
No trying to be like _________.
No. The world is not complete without you.
But now that you’ve done the work, how does what you’ve created survive past what C.S. Lewis called the W.P.B. (Waste Paper Basket)? That’s what we’ll talk about in the next part.