Today I sat down to write a play.
Making plays was something I used to do a lot of as a child and even into adulthood. So, for the first time in about eight years I asked myself the question, if I were to write a play what would I write about? And a flood of ideas came to me - modern retellings of ancient myths, transformational stories, multimedia musicals - I could see shimmering glimmers of it all in my mind.
Excited, I sat down to write.
Words tumbled out. But quite quickly I noticed something, that as the words came so did a feeling and voice, something that felt eerily familiar. And not in a good way.
It was that mean inner art critic telling me how stupid it sounded. How uncool and cliche, and that I'm wasting time, and that I'm probably better off cleaning the house. I remembered why I stopped all these ridiculous creative pursuits in the first place. That constant competitive and negative feedback loop playing inside my mind. Overriding the joy, until every word put on paper was weighted with worry.
I stepped away, it was a dumb idea.
But surely, said a little voice, all of that was from a time before. Before I did seven years of something different. Seven years of deep self discovery and exploration. Of building my belief in myself and the world back up. And yet in one moment - poof! That all vanishes?
So I came back to the blog, a place more familiar and safe these days, I find the audience kinder, I think, here. We are all friends right? And I’m wondering friends, how the hell do I map my spiritual growth into a creative venture that requires more personal robustness? A place where I have unseen scar tissue. A place that I fear greatly, and yet a place that I still burn with desire for.
Know that I have a very ‘thin skin’ and I feel things deeply, and yes this has its advantages, but it also means that I feel all the negative stuff very intensely. And way back when I used to make plays, when I was young and impressionable, respected teachers, friends and inflated know-it-alls said some harsh stuff to me. And it tore my tender heart to shreds.
And so I stopped. It’s easier that way. Keeping quiet, with nothing to say. And yet, and yet, there is still a longing within, stories that need to be seen in the light again. In some way, some day.
And I sit with this conflict. And I wonder, is there a way to create while letting go of the terror of not being revered? Can I be okay with people not liking my very personal work?
There are a few, erm, limited examples of artists who are fearless and free - not trying to please but working with soul, from the heart and authenticity.* But many of us struggle with our demons and shadows as we work. And sometimes I wonder if it’s because of the darkness that we create art, or whether the art forces us to confront our demons, and brings up all the dark.
I mean, it's probably absurd to say, but does art ever make it all feel worse? Sometimes I get obsessed with an art project, like Carrie from Homeland. Surely that's not healthy. And yet then on the other side there's art-therapy, which is pretty darn positive in my experience.
So, where is the line? How do we make art in a life-enhancing and sustainable way?
I'll leave you with that question. My inquiry for today.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll try writing a play again, and try to bypass my harsh inner critic by actually playing, maybe even praying, as I step into write. I’ll have to bring in all the guides to prepare me for this fight. Ready and waiting to champion my new old adventures.
I'll let you know how it goes.
* Know any? Please share!