“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” - Steven Pressfield
Writing Prompt: Take some time to go deeper today and tend to the inner artist’s wound. What is the biggest doubt you have about yourself as a creator?
My inner artist’s wound is simply this: I am too sentimental, too much reliant on emotions.
In graduate school, one of my poetry partners, Rebecca, was the self-proclaimed sentimentality police, always hovering over my words with her cropped hair, a sharp number 2 pencil, and a predictable sigh of boredom. Perhaps, we were just different writers. She, more voice driven, much more intellectual. I envied her that. It certainly seemed to be the preferable trend in academia. Where I wanted to feel, they wanted--or so it seemed to me at the time--to think or laugh or do mental gymnastics around an idea or insult, somehow making everyone else feel small for not getting the joke, the irony. Where I preferred the Romantics, they would smile with a hint of pity, so middle school of me, while they, of course, traded up to new schools, third waves, and post-structuralists. Of course, some poets were democratic equalizers: Both Emily’s could wave their banners on anyone’s island. Am I being fair? It’s easy to generalize from memory.
If I am honest, Rebecca made me a better writer, pulling me back from that cliff-face of sentimentality for hard-earned sentiment. Sentimentality is false, overly dressed, trying too hard; sentiment is true. It’s that simple. I knew it when I saw it. Joan Didion’s heartbreaking sentences. Each one loaded with oar, terse, direct; all the complicated emotion of love and death, daughter and husband, fiction and science floating in the shadows under the boat in which she sat, silently, observing unobtrusively from her small frame of the world. I saw it. I couldn’t write it. But I wanted to.
And, if I’m really honest, I had a peer who wasn’t breaking her lines for sarcasm. She was a real poet. The kind that writes because she must, who lives once in the field and again at her desk writing about tall grasses brushing her bruised shins as she walked her own labyrinth in the field. She was maybe the best of us all, haunting us with those red barns, her father, her word gloaming whispering me to sleep at night. We loved Gretchen for her New England elegance, the quiet freckles across her fair face, how she could give an afternoon its crescendo with words.
So, perhaps I am sentimental. I did just have a conversation with my man about why I wanted to keep the leftover Canadian coins from our trip. He thought them clutter. I saw objects to hold, to remind us of where we’ve been and who we were. I like that part of me. She’s a preserver. She sees significance in what others might not. She likes things for their thingness. This is not sentimental; it’s sacred, a constant state of altar-making.
Now, over to you. What is your inner artist' wound? How does it show up--in life, art? How might it actually serve you? Write your way to healing today. Stretch by stretch, word by word.
Let me know how it goes. You can tag me on social (@proseandposes) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you know anyone struggling with their doubt who might find courage from this post, please pass it along.
Creative Affirmation: I’m writing myself alive. I’m learning my creativity myths that no longer serve me, letting them go. My creativity is essential. Just as important as exercise or food.