It seems the whole word has a terrible case of the broken-hearted blues. To say the least, it can be hard to create under these circumstances. It can be hard to even believe that creativity is worth the trouble, or that art and expression matter.
But we all know that’s all just a self-indulgent load of bull we’re toting around to avoid the impulse to let our wings spread even as our hearts are getting cracked open wider and wider. Because as much as we all might want to shut down and close up, turn in early, I think what we really want even more is to actually fight to keep those cracks open, recognize that they represent new ways to let the light in.
Like most people who tend to look up and out, I’ve had my heart broken multiple times over. And that, more than any talent or dedication, is what gives me the strength to keep writing. Every time it happens, my initial reaction is to think it’s time to throw in the towel, curl up into the fetal position, go back to graduate school. And every time, this resistance prolongs my suffering. Slowly but surely, I’m starting to realize that pain needs to be experienced as wholeheartedly as joy – and then released just as quickly. Our most extreme reactions are not meant to be the ones we live with long term. Think about the animal kingdom. When a creature is failing, it doesn’t resist the failure. It dies quickly and/or gracefully, becomes fuel for the world. When a bird molts, it doesn’t go into a nervous panic, trying to paste its remaining feathers into place, talking to all its friends about how beautiful it once was. It goes about its business, knowing renewal can only take place when it doesn’t resist a total overhaul. When the social and political world tilts off its access, artists can only mourn for so long. Clutching that novel that made all the sense in the world this past summer, for example, might just be the literary equivalent of a comb-over.
It might be a while before any of us knows where we’re going with any of this. But we can rest confident in the knowledge that art never follows a plan. We might shape and coax and feed it along the way, but ultimately, if we’re doing our jobs right, it’ll bloom according to its own inherent momentum. I think it was Thurber who said that writing a novel is like driving through the fog at night; you can only see three feet in front of you, but that’s all you need to see at any given time to eventually find your destination.
So know that today, at least this one person is wishing with all her heart that you’ll go ahead and create. Allow your hearts to break and let things you thought you couldn’t live without fall away. Artists are not supposed to hold on. We’re supposed to flow and connect, speak into and through the spaces that science can’t explain and logic can’t define – sing through them, in fact. The songs may be strange and unfamiliar, but doesn’t that make them all the more essential?
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