Something I perpetually struggle with: balance.
How do I balance reading and writing? Schoolwork and blogging? Studying and getting the right amount of sleep?
And the thing on my mind most lately, how do I balance worrying about how my writing is turning out and letting it go completely?
This story really begins on Friday. I was straightening my hair (as anyone with curly hair knows, this is no joke) and wanted something to do while I worked away. I don’t know how many of you know about Ted Talks, but basically they are 20 minute long educational lectures. Except they are very, very interesting. On a whim, I searched for Ted Talks on writing and clicked on one by Elizabeth Gilbert. Some of y’all that have been here since this blog began might remember my review of Eat, Pray, Love by her. I hated it. But as it turns out, she is a charasmatic public speaker and has some really interesting points to bring up in this particular talk. Here‘s the talk. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you aren’t a writer or creative-oriented person.
If you don’t have time, Elizabeth basically talks about writing and creativity. Why is it that writers in particular have a history of being mentally unstable? So many writers in history were undone by their gifts. Why is this? Why do writers feel so much crushing pressure that sometimes they will put writing away forever? What is it about creative people that gives us that reputation?
Elizabeth looks back in history to the Ancient Greece and Rome, where some of history’s greatest philosophers, artists, and writers came from. Back then, the view of the arts was much different. People believed that everyone creative had a genius, who lived in their studio wherever they worked and helped them with their work. They were separate from the human, and it was very freeing to be creative during this time period. If you failed, it wasn’t entirely your fault. If you succeeded, it wasn’t entirely your doing, either. And then along came the Renaissance, which was the beginning of people calling a person a genius instead of having a genius. That was the beginning of the end, you could say. After that, it was even harder than it would be in the first place to be creative. Being called a genius puts an enormous amount of pressure on a single person.
The point is, balance is hard to achieve. We have to remember that, as writers, it’s completely normal for us to doubt ourselves and feel like we’ll never find the words for the story that’s in our heads. We all feel this way, the paranoia of having characters’ entire existence in your hands and wanting to do justice to their story. You aren’t alone in this. Just try to let it out of your hands.
Try thinking about each writer as a pen. (haha nice analogy, right?) A pen has extraordinary possibilities, you can write or draw almost anything with it. But only so much ink can flow out of the tiny nib at a time. You can press down on paper really hard, but that isn’t going to make the ink flow any faster.
As Elizabeth suggests, let us celebrate those who have the guts to write, paint, draw, sculpt, film, and every other thing of beauty. It takes as much determination as it does talent to be successful creatively. And let’s remember that success is self-defined: no one can tell you that you aren’t successful if you’ve passed your own goals.
Fight that voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough. Kick and scratch and whatever you do, don’t give up. If you need to trunk one project or a dozen, that’s ok. But don’t ever stop completely.
In the beautiful words of Tahereh Mafi:
“we write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. we plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. we write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. this is who we are.”