Hi, friends. I’ve got to get serious for a second. JK. I’m always serious.
I need to know if your story is like mine.
People who write for creative expression: do you also write to make a living? Is writing a big bulk of your job?
It is for me. I write resumes. I write cover letters. I can have anywhere between 3 and 20 clients at one time. It takes incredible focus and, yes, even creativity.
I feel accomplished when I complete a resume or cover letter. I feel like I’ve spent my ideas and created something clean, polished, and useful for other people.
Afterwards, my ‘writing mind’ is spent, and I want to do something else to relax like watch Netflix or paint.
My husband doesn’t understand why I spend my time painting when I could be doing what I am better at: writing poems. He said, “It’s like Picasso’s wife telling Picasso not to paint.” (Apparently, he thinks very highly of my poetry…). He doesn’t get that the last thing I want to do after writing all day is write poems, or anything with structure that needs sound, cohesive thought and originality.
Abstract painting allows me to NOT think. Or, to think in a different way. To think in a way that is more feeling than thinking. More sense than structure. I can ‘feel’ through colors that I move around on the canvas. It is playful, yet I have goals in mind: to make something pretty, original, unique, or new (to me). I have to like what I’m making. With paint, it’s easy: miracles happen when you don’t know what you are doing — when you are just blending colors, or using materials like cardboard to scrape away colors… it’s a balance of adding, subtracting, and not staying attached to one particular outcome. It’s a way to unleash and explore without the added pressures of it having to be ‘good.’ It just has to be good to me!
My husband’s comment has stuck with me, though. What if I am wasting my talents? Or worse, eroding them because I am out of practice? What if I am no longer in love with writing? What if it doesn’t satisfy me? What if it makes me angry because I have nothing valuable to say? What if it feels meaningless?
If this were someone else sharing this exact same story, I’d say: Meh, continue what you’re doing. If painting brings you joy and excitement, keep challenging yourself in that arena. Maybe it is unleashing new skills or new ideas. Maybe it is necessary for your mind and spirit right now, to try something you aren’t ‘good’ at but enjoy doing.
I’d use some reverse psychology to put things into perspective, like my business coach used to do. She would ask the question, “What if you NEVER wrote another word (that isn’t for work) again?” Then you’d write down a list of emotions sharing how that would make you feel. I’d feel disappointed. Let down. Shocked! Like I’m missing something.
Zoom out, and I’d say: the best stories and ideas come from being outside in the world, challenging yourself, doing things outside of your realm of ‘natural’ talent. Perhaps, everything else, outside of the writing, is a gateway for that. Perhaps, you don’t need to be so hard on yourself. Perhaps, if you want to, you could make a plan that would prioritize and separate work from play, putting “play” first instead of only last, which is why you resort to mindless, more carefree things, like painting. Maybe your own personal writing should start early in the day, when you are fresh and awake and aware. And then the professional stuff can come later, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Maybe there is a way to re-wire all your circuitry so that you can support more than 1 – 2 outlets / inputs. Maybe you start with one word. Maybe it grows from there.