I’m a neurotic writer. Ever since high school, when I’d melt down in a panic over essays about Antigone or Lord of the Flies, I’ve struggled with the written word. My sentences do not flow the way I want them to. Nails get bitten. Hair is pulled out. The ego takes over and asks: Why do you even bother when there are so many better writers out there?
This is when it’s time to remember The Artists’s Way, Julia Cameron’s brilliant guide to creativity. No doubt I’ve blogged about it before. In her book, she talks about the concept of ‘shadow artists,’ people who would be artists if they’d only recognize themselves as such:
As a rule of thumb, shadow artists judge themselves harshly, beating themselves for years over the fact that they have not acted on their dreams. This cruelty only reinforces their status as shadow artists.
In large part, Cameron argues, to be an artist means declaring yourself one. Vincent Van Gogh said “If you hear a voice within you say ‘I cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” The same goes for writing. Not to be flip, but to be a writer, we simply have to show up to the computer and suffer the blank page until we decide to fill it with words.
If you’re someone who wants to write, then I promise: if my neurotic brain can pull it off, so can you. Just sit down and confront the page.
No judgments. Let yourself go. See what happens.
I’ve also benefited from books on writing and creativity. Because I’m always struggling, I’m always revisiting these books for encouragement:
Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott
On Writing, Steven King
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
Stein on Writing, Sol Stein
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro
An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery, Janna Malamud Smith
Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon
The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life, Twyla Tharp