While I am glad for the publication, I think it’s important to honor the process of getting there and to acknowledge how uneasy it makes me at the same time.
(The opposition is telling me, “It’s just one published article; why do you think you need to ‘honor a process’ or ‘acknowledge how you feel about it’? It’s not that big of a deal.)
I haven’t always been creative, in praxis.
I’ve always wanted to be and maybe even thought I was, but I wasn’t. It was right for me to think I was creative, though. I believe everyone is creative, in theory, and that they either realize their creative potential or they don’t. For the majority of my life there has been something keeping me from realizing my creative potential. It still works against me now (see second parenthetical thought above), even though I have started to identify it.
I believe we realize our creative potential when we are free. And the times when we don’t realize our potential are times when we are in captivity. We can be held captive by many things.
In her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott argues that perfectionism is the captor of our creativity. Brené Brown spent more than a decade researching shame and believes it to be, among other things, what keeps us from being creative. In Scary Close, Donald Miller says that we are creatively paralyzed by a “fear of being known, a fear of making mistakes (and) a fear of being found lacking.” All of these things keep us from expressing ourselves creatively.
But all of these things are, as Steven Pressfield said in his funny, foul-mouthed book The War of Art, “always lying and always full of shit.”
Sometimes I realize my creativity is being held captive when the word “rigidity” comes to mind. I’ll think about a new thing I want to do with a certain project, for example, and then think, “I can’t do it that way because it doesn’t go along with what I originally had in mind.” Or sometimes, especially when I’m writing, there’s a voice telling me that my voice doesn’t matter. It’s like, “Oh, so that’s what you think? Who cares?”
The thing about any artistic endeavor (aside from academic writing, perhaps) is that there’s never a wrong move. There’s never a wrong brush or pen stroke. There’s never a wrong sentence. Only perfectionism, shame and fear want us to think we’re about to make the wrong move, or that our voices don’t matter. Creativity is not about being right. It’s not about being perfect or proving our worth. It’s not about getting people to like us. But it might have something to do with being brave.
I think it takes courage to hear that inner voice that tells you you can’t create something, and disagree. It takes courage to work against the current of these various forms of opposition.
The opposition is real and obnoxiously strong, and it will return to claim our courage time and again. In her book, Yes Please, Amy Poehler takes us through the challenge of writing:
“What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us 'youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?' ... You just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book. So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
My first published article is not perfect. It doesn’t make me more valuable. It doesn’t prove that my voice matters. There are people who will disagree with what I’ve written and there are certainly people who won’t care about it. And these things will be true of anything I'm fortunate enough to publish in the future.
However, to answer my earlier question about who does care what I think: I do. And I think God does, too. And that’s what matters. My voice has been one of my greatest causes for as long as I can remember, and I’m going to keep using it.
It also matters that I did it. I just kept going.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my literary “friends” and from my own experiences with writing, it’s this: To be creative is to realize what is working against you and keep going anyway. Identify your opposition, acknowledge it, but don’t let it control you. Just keep going.
If you make music, just keep making music. If you entrepreneur, just keep entrepreneuring. If you write, just keep writing.