Tag Archives: art

Confessions of a Broken Artist

Time to come clean. To weigh in on where the hell I’ve been the last few months. To get really and truly real. So many times I’ve sat down and thought “I need to blog, it’s been forever”, yet everything feels trite or boring when I start to write a post.

On one hand, there are SO many things that have been happening… I started my senior year of college and I’m getting a minor now, too without adding any additional time to finish. Classes are getting more difficult and taxing, and I’m seriously burned out by all of it. Trudging along and barely mustering B-average work. But Cs get degrees so I’m still doing fine. My work as the Conference Committee Chair of the League of Utah Writers almost broke me between July and August preparing for our annual event, but it was an amazing conference and we are already planning for the next one. I’m also preparing for someone to take over because it’s too much time and effort to volunteer in the role forever. We are going through yet another reorganization at the corporate job – this makes two in under a year. Oh, and I was offered a position as an Operations Manager (and partner) in a new company. A role I could do in a handful of hours a week without having to give up my corporate job. Yes, I took it. So far I just had to give up staying in touch with people on social media to find the time.

But none of that really matters when talking about unapologetic confessions.

You see, on the writing front, I’ve had a hell of a year. I killed myself trying to finish drafting my last novel in order to pitch it to agents. Which I did. But it ended in rejection. I know I’m not alone in this outcome. Countless authors pitch novels that never get picked up or which take years and endless revisions until they are successful. But this was the first time I’d put myself out there with a novel. The first one I thought was good enough to sell. I’m not going to lie, it fucking hurt. Maybe even more so than I originally knew because the effects were felt months later when I couldn’t write a short story for my advanced creative writing class.

That’s when I got really worried. My creativity felt all dried up. Like I didn’t even know how to come up with a story anymore. Worse, the characters I always had whispering through my mind were silent. Dead. Maybe gone.

I had all these other things to fill my time and allow me to hide away from the pain of this rejection. Excuses I could make. Reasons I could use to explain away what was happening. That only worked for so long… I couldn’t hide from my self-awareness or my analytical nature.

I took stock. I made assessments. I started troubleshooting. Problem-solving.

In the last week of November, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I’d written a total of 252 words outside of academic assignments for the whole month. No revisions. Not even pretending to write. I’ve fallen so far from my creative writing that I struggle knowing where to begin to get it back. A few weeks ago I would have said I was completely broken.

But that isn’t true either. Not entirely.

What’s true is that I have broken my habit of daily writing, which I had fostered and committed to for several years thanks to the magic of NaNoWriMo. That does not mean I can’t get it back. But it does feel like I’m starting all over again from the beginning.

What’s also true is that I need to figure out what comes next for me. The novel I just finished drafting, while timely and full of potential, is also very political and similar to at least one that has already been published. I know because I read it. That doesn’t mean that I need to dwell on that project and obsess about it. What I can do is start another project or pick up one of the previous three others I’ve put down after initially drafting them. Maybe there’s still a story to be told hiding in the shell of the current project waiting to be found. Whatever the answer, start I must.

While I work through all the layers of how deeply the last few months have affected me, I am clear on one thing: I must be real and unapologetic with myself. It’s okay to be selfish – both with my time and the things I choose to fill it with. It’s okay to take time for my own self-care, otherwise, I can’t care for others. Above all else, I must stop hiding from myself and the fear of failure that has settled into me. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.

Here’s to getting my mojo back.


Rejection roller coaster: the mother-daughter edition

Being an artist is hard. Banish the self-doubt and self-sabotage inherent in all of us and you still have subjective judgments that rule the arts. This past month felt like someone holding a giant magnifying glass above me, concentrating the rays of sunlight into a laser beam of backyard destruction on a pitiful and insignificant ant, me. Of course there are reasons for this that I could go into and bore you with the details of.

I could. But I won’t.

That kind of dwelling on the details doesn’t allow for the wide-angle lens of life I glimpsed because of them. Which is the point.

The basics are: I went to a writer’s conference that showed me exactly where I am within the professional realm of writing and publishing. It isn’t where I want to be. I learned a lot. I was mostly happy, but also sad at the end of the trip. Objectively, nothing earth-shattering was uncovered while there. I’m in school still, I have to split what free time I have with my writing, and because of that, my writing is progressing at a fucking snail’s pace. Nothing I can do with that but be patient and persevere, knowing all the time I devote to finishing my degree I will get to spend writing when it’s over. Think of the solid habits I’ll have, too!

Big Sister is a beautiful almost-adult now. She auditioned for a dance company that she wanted so badly. Surviving the first cut – further than she’d come last year – bittersweet when she got cut in the second round. Lots of tears and self-doubt at our place and this mom feeling helpless to take the pain and disappointment from her.

Here’s where that wide-angle lens comes in.

I know exactly how she feels. Putting yourself and your work out in the world. Judges (agents, editors, readers in my case) making assessments on what feels like your personal worth based on your artistic expression and execution. Feeling like you’re not good enough in the face of apparent failure. Wanting to quit.

I found myself telling her she should not quit dance unless she felt in her soul that she didn’t want to dance anymore. Because wanting to dance, and the joy it brings her, is the only thing that matters. Not whether or not she got cut from the company. Not that someone else subjectively didn’t think she fit. Her technique was judged and found wanting, but only in someone else’s opinion. She is still a beautiful dancer. Dance makes her happy. It’s all that matters.

As I talked to her, my own words echoed back at me about my writing. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t got anyone to represent me. Nor that I found holes in my plot the size of Texas. That my technique is different than others does not invalidate it. The ridiculous amount of time it’s taking me to finish this latest novel. In the end, those things are all subjective measures. What matters is the joy writing brings to me when I’m doing it.

That is enough.

It is all that matters.

In life, in love, in dance… in writing… the only thing that matters is the joy it brings you. If it doesn’t then, by all means, quit. But if quitting will kill the joy that set you on the path in the first place, ask yourself why you and that nugget of joy that sings to your soul is not enough to sustain you.

Consider that it IS enough. Everything else is subjective and doesn’t have to define you, or your joy. What you and your situation look like through the lens of society is not the truth for you. Persist. Find and then cling to the joy. Let it sustain you through the darkness and the doubt.

It will always be enough.