It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new, so I thought I should give it a try. I’m sitting at my laptop, having deleted the lines from the last three attempts I made to pen something interesting – thoughts about rediscovering hiking this year or musings about my inability to balance my personal interests. I’m losing hope in accomplishing my objective and wondering if this writing thing will end up being yet another short-lived endeavor.
Funny how creativity works. I’ve heard that in writing, it’s better to write a bit, anything good or bad, each day. I’ve read books echoing that sentiment and attended lectures where authors and professors encourage budding writers to nurture their craft through discipline, but I’m not sure what I think at the moment. Can you really put all things creative on demand? What if you feel you have nothing to say at present? Isn’t it better to remain silent (e.g., the ubiquitous maxim: “If you can’t say anything nice…”)? What of the artist who finds himself tired, dry, and passionless? Can you squeeze something of life out of him? And let’s say in the spirit of discipline, you attempt to give voice to something, anything at the blank face of a canvas, the sharpened point of a pencil, the lens and shutter of a camera, or the silver keys of a laptop… Will you find anything worthwhile because in the name of discipline, you clumsily made your way through a process that you felt promised to return very little, if anything at all?
What if you fail to find anything great in the midst of your work? What if turns out horribly and you have to scrap the entire thing? What if you can’t find a unique voice, your voice from among the crowd? What if you find in the end that you’re actually a two-bit hack who’s really not any good and just trying to be something you’re not? What if…? What if…? “What if,” indeed.
I must admit that I haven’t felt like writing much because I feel like at present, I haven’t much to say. Yet, if I never venture out into the unknown, into the unpredictable, into that which is not guaranteed success, then I have no hope of finding what I’m after. The good seldom falls into one’s lap without any effort.
When I embark on the journey of testing out “what if,” feeling my way through the dark tunnel bit by bit, I realize that there’s more to it than simply copying down the amazing novel that’s already all worked out in my head. I mean, there are times when the work pours out quickly, easily like a rushing river that can’t be held back. It’s so much easier that way and makes me confident in my gifts and calling planted so deeply inside. But more often than not, I am confronted with the reality that the work is not simply about me and my remarkable creativity, intellect, skill, and wit.
As I fight and claw my way up this hill, to conquer it and communicate something truly good, I am so humbled to find that I don’t even know where I’m going. While I believe that I need to stretch my talents regularly so that I’m ready to employ them when, as Madeline L’Engle says, the work calls, I don’t think that’s enough to carry me through. In and of themselves, my abilities as a writer and photographer are not enough to help me navigate this process. Sure I can become technically proficient, but to capture the depth of life involves more than technique. I need help from the outside to find what I’m after. Turns out that I’m not the source of the work but more like the channel. I feel closer to understanding what’s really happening in this moment with each key stroke…
I believe that the truly creative work communicates something of meaning, something of truth to those who engage it, and that’s what I want to pursue. And it’s the Spirit who quickens this mind, motivates my thoughts, and guides me to what is true – how sweet it is when truth is found! At times, it will be a struggle to find some glimpse of her, and there will be times when I can’t hold her back. No matter what the cost, it’s worth the fight. Tonight, I encountered the struggle, and I’m pretty exhausted from the nearly 2-hour long wrestling match this entry required. But…I’m glad that I didn’t let the fear of coming up empty hold me back from engaging the question of “What if?”