Saying “it could be worse” can invalidate emotions and circumstances. It not that you want to try to always be positive. But “things can only get better” isn’t superior. That’s unrealistic and possibly harmful, too.
But if you say one, remember the other is just as valid. It’s a tempering move, something to brace against while you tackle to tough, real world with your soft feelings and ideas. Feel your feelings and keep moving along, move forward, move even though you’re afraid. Make stuff and make the next stuff better than this stuff. Sometimes that’s enough.
Abandon the Paths That Aren’t Leading You Well With, Well, Abandon
You can’t always tell if the path you’re walking—metaphorically, as usual—is productive or even really going somewhere. But sometimes it’s clearer. Ironically, the paths that get darker are often dead ends, you should be seeing some light approaching.
I’m not against the white light on the road to Damascus, or lightning strikes of epiphany, but they just don’t happen very often and not to very many of us. Most of the time, your creative journey is downright confusing and hard to see. It’s usually hardest to see at the beginning, though. If things are getting murkier, harder to interpret (for you, forget about explaining your work to others for this), or circular, it’s probably time to abandon it.
It seems counter-intuitive, because we’re often told we should stick it out in life. Successful people talk about the hard work that got them where they are, and how only losers quit. But you’ll know most of the time whether the road you’re on is getting you somewhere. You’ll be able to see, feel, and/or hear it. It’s not necessarily that things should be becoming easier. Just about everything worthwhile takes a lot of effort. But there are very few artistic gems that sparkle suddenly from a confusing and muddy place.
Don’t be afraid to start again. That’s your secret weapon as an artist: you can jump off the current path to a new one any time you want. You try things with as little fear as you can muster, but similarly you should feel free to walk a new road when you hit a dead end.
The Habit of a Daily Thing, and How to Overcome Your Own Resistance
I’ve been working my way through Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist.” It’s full of good things to carry away, in typically acerbic Saltz-style. There’s plenty to think about—and things to do!—within his 33 rules.
One of his early rules is just to work. You have to work to be an artist. You don’t have to be great, or even very good. But if you aren’t creating. . . something, you’re not what you say you want to be. The habit is one way to keep creating, to make it just part of your routines, the stuff you just have to do every day.
And here’s to overcoming fear to become what you want to be. It’s intimidating, starting out. Its also worth the cost in time and energy.
Things That We Scare Ourselves With And Things That Ought to Scare Us
We’re getting pretty good at fake-scaring ourselves. Movies and series and books that terrorize us, temporarily.
But being scared of bigger things is kind of helpful. At least, it can be to your practice. Helplessness, stagnation, despair, apathy—I think these are worthy of our fear, if it leads to our doing something against those. Your practice is your expression of your humanity. It brings a part of your essence into being. Into the world comes a new thing, and we need it.
I think it used to be fear. It still is a huge problem, but most of us face distraction to a degree never seen before.
Like calling yourself a writer because you write, if you make stuff, you’re a creator, or an artist. That’s it! No one can tell you when you’re allowed to be one, and by opposite turn, no one will stop you from not making. Indulge in distraction too long and it’s procrastination, then blockage, and finally you aren’t a creator any more.
It isn’t always easy, but it is a simple path. The most basic identity comes from what we do, and thus what we are.
Searching Desperately Through the Ruins and Trying Not to Panic
NaNoWriMo excerpt, there’s a bunch of jargon building up in this, and I’m wary of such things. But it’s a first draft, judgment should wait:
Long abandoned by the corporate enclave founders, there were scattered opportunists who’d barricades themselves a few independent co-ops and communities, but they liked to stay isolated and wouldn’t exactly be open to a stranger and his bear, boosted or no. He knew of a small group somewhere south of the bridge that Manola had friends among, but that was it. He’d have to try to feel them out with his chatbit and see if he could get the message through a friendly wavelane.
Ahead of them, jumbled walls and the few buildings that still stood, open-eyed with glassless windows. Bluesong imagined hordes of people waiting for them, hidden behind the walls and burned out columns of temporary shelters. It was probably unlikely, he knew, but he couldn’t stop his imagination conjuring. But they were at the middle with no movement or sound from the other side. Only the slow rush of the river below them made a sound above their own feet, so he pressed on. They were just about to the other side, and Bluesong about to tell Ya-Ya he needed an access point, when the alarm sirens started pulsing behind the walls of Pearl City
Somehow, he’d need to get within range of an open localnet node and send a message to Manola. She’d know what to do, and maybe she could help find out what had happened to his life since this morning, when he’d thought everything was still normal. He tried not to think about the growing possibility it would never be so again.
They couldn’t stay in view of the city, couldn’t count on roving eyes not looking for them, and needed distance as fast as possible. One of the bridges was heavily trafficked. The other only by rail, still the best way to move large amounts of goods across long kilometers of wilderness between cities and territories, but maybe they could get across and head for dense forest and some valid cover. It didn’t seem to Bluesong any madder than hanging out with a talking bear in a copse next to Pearl City.
The Recursion of Second Guessing When You Hesitate
Not all instances—and certainly not in art—lend themselves to quick decisions, but most often, forging ahead with decisions and paths is the best.
Hesitation and too much thinking about choices and potential outcomes can easily spiral inward in a disappointing and never-ending lack of finishing. Gut feeling doesn’t always work, but it does get you started.