Updated: Sep 6, 2021
"If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."
~ Steven Pressfield, The War on Art: Winning the Creative Inner Battle
There's much to admire in The War on Art: Winning the Creative Inner Battle, as I often grapple with the challenges, and at times, the terror of being a writer, an artist, a creative person committed to cultivating the heart of expression in myself and in others. Today, the passage quoted above are on my mind. While I take in the notion that bumping into the parts of living a creative life that scare me is perfectly normal, I ruffle at Pressfield's use of the word "real."
Real, as defined, genuine or true, not imagined or supposed, actually existing.
As someone who identifies as a writer, writing teacher, artist, and creativity coach, as long as I exist, I am creating. If I'm purposefully paying attention to the world around me, or merely daydreaming, as I gather stories and sensations, have conversations, experience and field emotions, overcome roadblocks, and get knocked down, I consider it all pre-writing, which means I must be a writer. If I'm observing the warm color palette in the late summer garden or the tonality of a subdued winter scape, seeing texture and shadow and depth in a human face, as long as I am running the length of surfaces with the tip of my fingers along Bristol Board or petting our dog with the stocking-footed tips of my toes, I am pre-painting, which makes me, in my mind, an artist.
Rather than wonder if I'm some kind of fake or the real deal, I feel more inspired when I "live the questions." (Rilke)
~ Am I spending enough time, at least once a day, in the awareness that I am a breathing being inhabiting a body on a vibrating planet, part of a humanity that's riddled with multiple realties, the dichotomies of heartbreak and joy, devastation and celebration, courage and fear?
~ I'm I mining my existence, my purpose, through some kind of expression?
~ Am I practicing enough that I feel levity and longing, hope and despair, and all matter of emotion in between?
~ What is the fear I encounter?
~ Where, when, and how do I channel the heart and heft to keep going despite the challenges?
In curiosity, I'm rarely either "wildly self-confident," or "scared to death." I'm receiving and releasing, seeking balance. Like my spirited granddaughter in the photo below, I strive to be wildly at ease with the passion and perils of following an impulse towards an act of making, simply put, living a creative life.
How about you?
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(Photo credit: Lizz Hauty @maplemountainart)