I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What drives me to write. Why I keep going, even when I don’t necessarily want to at times. Here’s what I’ve come up with (most at three in the morning, so forgive me).
Whether you paint, write, design, cook, build, dance, whatever, the thing you do is unique to anyone else: you create something out of nothing. That’s the thrill of it. That’s what keeps us coming back for more. That’s why, despite what little money there is to be made and how much we feel like we’re only shouting into the void, we keep creating, even if it means only a handful of people see it and get it. Even if it means no one wants to look.
Mostly, we’re happy creatures. Give us what we want to make and we will create life from a mound of dirt with smiles on our dirty little faces like a toddler on spaghetti night.
But there’s a but. At least for me.
Some artists have a tough time being creative—not that they can’t find the inspiration or actually do the thing that makes them feel human, but just in general. We have a hard time relating to people on basic levels. Someone can get upset over sugar in their black coffee and we’re busy counting the stained rings on the table cloth, wondering how we can work this one detail into something later on. We have a hard time finding time and when we do, it never seems like enough. We have a hard time making money, or at the very least, being taken seriously. People ask you what you do at Christmas and say, “oh, that’s nice,” in the dismissive way someone tells you to pass the salt. We spend so much time trying to describe the human condition with our creations, but that doesn’t mean we understand it any more than the next person.
And the ideas. The inspiration or lack thereof. I will have ideas that flow through me faster than I can write them down and worse, before they are ready. I fear a lot of times that I pick flowers before they’re fully grown and if I had waited a year or so to write something, maybe it would be fuller and more beautiful. But sitting still is worse. I cannot sit still at all. As soon as I am halfway done writing one book, I have started another. As of right now, I am working on three books.
I wish I could sit still. I wish I could just write something, be happy with it forever and not cringe when I look back on it (sometimes I like things, but not often), and move on. Give myself time to relax and do all the things people keep telling me I should do like see certain shows or travel. Even when I tell myself it is going to be a laid back night at home, I am always thinking. I can never live entirely in this world. One foot is always in fiction.
I am not complaining. These are just things I’ve noticed about myself lately, now that I have even more limited time because of my business becoming more of a full time-holy-shit-I-can-do-this-the-rest-of-my-life job. I used to be able to take a whole day and read anything I wanted. Now, when I have free time, I feel guilty if I am reading something that is not research for another book, or something I can learn from in some way.
We don’t really get time off. We don’t really have free time. Our minds are always running, always shifting back and forth between surroundings, between what we’re going to do next. Ask any creative person what their next project is and they will tell you, vaguely and confusingly, that they aren’t sure, but they have some ideas. Even when we don’t, the pressure to create that we put on ourselves is much heavier than any other. We need to keep moving, keep creating, keep looking at things from different angles until it makes sense.
Even when it becomes hard and even when creating seems to be the only thing that makes sense to us—even if we don’t understand what we are bringing into the world—a lot of times it’s just a jumbled mass of limbs and teeth until the last moment—this is who we are. When people ask what we do, most think of our jobs. We have to process the question a second longer than the scientist or teacher. We have to remember that we are “Insert career here” first and artists second, and in some company, it’s best not to even mention that you sing bars to yourself in the car or keep Post-its in your desk for when no one is looking so you can jot down how to remedy that plot hole in chapter seven. Here, we live in two worlds too. Creative and non. When we find the people who understand us, we can be ourselves, but when we are at our day jobs, waiting in line at the bank, taking the kids to school, or at a family reunion, we are in the so-called “real world” where even though some people make a living as artists, we never talk about it, so as to not encourage others to do the same.
Why do we do this? So many people enjoy the products that once only lived in a creative person’s mind. Movies. Books. Newspapers. Clothes. Makeup. Food. These were all created for different reasons, but at the core, there is only one important one: to connect. Person to person. It seems simple, and because of that, people in the “real world” think that anyone can do it, therefore, it has no value.
From a young age, I listened to a lot of things adults told me that ended up being wrong, but this was one of the few I chose not to believe. If they could do the things I was doing—create the worlds and people I was creating—then why weren’t they?
The answer probably has many names: hunger, drive, power, whatever. I call it need. I need to create. I need to let the strange thoughts happen and I need to listen and write them down. I need to stay up until three in the morning typing until I can’t find my fingers. I need to spend hours thinking of the perfect way to word something into one sentence. If I don’t, something is utterly and completely off balance. I feel like I left the house with my shoes on the wrong feet or my shirt inside out. It’s acceptable, but uncomfortable.
For some people, I guess it’s possible to get used to. Maybe their feet form to the wrong shoes so that when they walk, they barely notice. I have never been that way. It is so noticeable to me that I’m surprised when other people don’t notice. People close to me sometimes do. They ask what is wrong and sometimes I don’t know. It’s only when I finally get the chance to sit down at my computer and connect with that side of me that I realize what was off, what was missing or backwards. Truly, I never feel more human than when I am creating different worlds—different lives. I’m not sure where this comes from or how to stop it, but it’s always there at the back of my mind, asking when the next chance it will have to be set free.
I’m not really sure how to end this post, but I just wanted to get some of my thoughts down. Maybe start a discussion of what this thing is inside of us that makes us want to connect in such a way; what makes people see our hands reaching out and grab hold.
Until next time,