This past weekend I had the surreal experience of wandering around bumping into things while a film crew descended on my parent's house to shoot TWO FOR TEA. It's a southern-gothicky short film I wrote that tells the story of an older, retired teacher named Gerta Meier who has watched her family come apart one strand at a time, and now will do whatever it takes to hold onto the only thread she has left - her grandson.
And but so anyways, the one question I got asked a lot was how it felt to watch as that crew recorded three highly gifted, professional actors playing the parts that I had written for them.
I had no good answer - in part because what I was feeling, most of the time, was not worth mentioning. Rationally, I knew that what I was experiencing was a great honor - a consummation, as they say, devoutly to be wished. But somehow there was also a little death in it... that post-Olympics feel that athletes sometimes get after the games are over. A feeling where, win or lose, they end up being depressed for weeks.
Maybe that was it.
Or maybe it was something more. Maybe it was yet another example of that thing Steven Pressfield called "The Resistance," that ugly force always lurking around, trying to crush the courage of anybody attempting to do the insane thing we call Making Art. It is the voice in my head that says, "This isn't going to work. I'm not good enough. I'm kind of a fraud, and no matter how many people affirm me in my creative path, the truth is that it's my detractors who are right. My scripts are boring and un-inspired. My stories are lifeless."
Notice anything about that voice?
That's absolutely right - it's first-person (good catch). The Resistance is me. It's my amygdala or whatever, telling me that creative risks will expose me to things like saber-tooth tigers and club-wielding thugs from that other tribe over the hill.
The Resistance is me, and it is a liar.
So today, instead, I think I'm going to try to tell a little bit of the truth:
I am a good writer. I write a lot of bad, useless stuff. But when I really apply myself, I can write (and have written) a lot of clear, clean prose. I have written stories that have moved people to tears, and I have written scripts that have made people laugh. I have hinted at truths that other people feel but don't know how to say, and in doing so have given a voice to what is often voiceless.
I work hard, and sometimes I even work well. But I am not my work, and my work is not the most important thing about me. The most important thing about me is people: people I love, and people who love me back.
There are many, many writers who are smarter than I - who know more words and use them in more clever ways. There are writers whose words dig down to deeper truths more often and more clearly than I have ever done. But they are not me. They were not born in the southern United States and raised in the Amazon basin of Peru, South America. They didn't muddle their way through an English degree in British Columbia, nor pay for it by becoming very good planters of trees.
They didn't work their way through the ranks to become crew leaders and camp supervisors of the most wonderful, hardworking crews of tree planters that have ever bled and sweated through too many summers of too-hard manual labor.
They didn't marry who I married, or have the son I had, or suffer through my divorce.
They didn't teach high school art to those kids at that school, and love them even though it hurt to the point of pissing off the establishment and losing their jobs. They didn't leave with a big smile and an open heart to take a risk on investing in me. They didn't meet the mentors and fellow-artists who loved my work and encouraged me.
Those other, better writers don't have the one thing I have more of than anyone else in the world: ME.
So I will take what I have and do what only I can do, and because of it I will make the things that only I can make. Some of them will not work well - will not connect or communicate in the way I had hoped for them. Sometimes this will be because I was not able to do my best with them, but sometimes it will just be because the audience did not yet exist for what I felt I needed to say.
This is okay.
My job is not to receive, it is to give. My art is my service to the world, and I will not value it based on affirmation or acclaim. I am here to roll around in the beauty of Making - to cry and bleed myself all over a page or canvas or screen so that other people can have that gift of feeling known, understood, and perhaps even loved.
I am a good writer.
I am a good painter, and a good poet, and a good singer, and good father.
I will strive to be better at those things, but my goal is not to become the best so as to "beat" anyone else. My goal is to become more fully me. To become the creator I was born to be - the Maker that is made through and in the Creative Act.
Life is so beautiful - such an endless treasure - and I am gifted with SO much. So I will rejoice and be glad in it. I will sing full-throated the Song of Myself, even when I feel like doing that or even writing a fru-fru little phrase like "sing full-throated the Song of Myself" exposes me too, too much.
I will say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone and everything and to the God I do not understand.
I will make more Art.
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