The fact is, many of us have been bad parents to our writing. We can be like helicopter parents. We monitor its movements to a tee. We don’t let it out into the world without fussing over every little detail of its appearance.
“How would this reflect on us?” we ask.
We show up to write, putting in the required time and effort. Making necessary sacrifices. Only just to lock our art up where it’s safe. Exposing it to the small world we feel comfortable with. We lock our art up underneath our better-knowing and protective noses like it was Norman Bates.
“The world wouldn’t understand you like I do. The world is vulgar and uncaring.”
Can we blame ourselves for doing the best that we can? Our intentions were good. We never meant to give our art a stifling environment. We didn’t know any better.
The good news is that we grow up in a huge life that is conspiring to help us at every turn.
How do we let our writing grow into what it is meant to grow into?
We let it out of the Bates Motel.
We let our writing out into a world that we find fundamentally terrifying. We let it scrape its knees and hang out with unsavory characters from time to time. I took an online course called Intentional Blog and it has been a wonderful, exciting, painful, awkward, nerve-wracking, frustrating, second-guessing journey from the start. I knew little to nothing about blogging. I had a strange aversion to the idea of “being a blogger.” I was taught how to make my posts “scanner-friendly” for the people who scan articles and move on to something else. I was taught about “optimizing” my content for search engines.
It felt at times like a form of creative prostitution. It still does occasionally.
But it was really about socializing my art. Making my writing able to conduct itself in the wider world. I’ve given my art the dignity of handling itself within constraints.
“The world wouldn’t understand you.” becomes “You’ll learn as you go. Have fun!”
I started taking writing classes. The teacher of my last class I had judged from the start. “I don’t trust her around my kid.” was the righteous mantra of the parent in me. She knew nothing of the junkie peril I had lived in, or of the gallows sentimentality that it had brought to my writing. When I shared intimate excerpts from my book in class, I felt like a leper exposed to judgment from the healthy. I would blush when the teacher offered alternative techniques. She would talk about how to reveal epiphanies and how to narrate my inner dialogue. I would blush because she would describe some sort of made-for-TV drama about confronting a half-empty liquor on a cloudy day. It got so much darker than that.
What she offered was practical advice from decades of writing experience. Her suggestions about sentence length and getting rid of the “I feel,” “I thought,” “I saw,” “I heard” terms were really an iron tool to soften away the blunt, amateur edges of my writing. The junkie artist inside of me had a lot to say, but it over-extended its reach. I needed to be put in a situation where I wasn’t the genius writer, where I could be in a place to learn something.
We Do Our Best and We Move Our Feet
It’s better to create something good than not to create something perfect. It’s better to write something good weekly than it is to only write something very good monthly. Perfection is a lie and perfectionism is an excuse to create little to nothing when it is all said and done.
Like the stressed out parent who fills their heads with worry for their child, we must admit to ourselves that mistakes will be made. It will all work out.
So, expose yourself. Expose your art. Let it out into the world where other people can see it. Look at other peoples art. Encourage others and ask for help. Feel a little discomfort as you let your art grow up in an uncontrollable world. Just give it your best shot and enjoy the ride.
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