We make such unforgiving demands upon ourselves as artists, Any artist, really. We define our success by fame, by sales, by the final balance in our bank account. The life of all artists is a lonely life. I have known musicians and actors who, surrounded by a band or an orchestra or a troupe, are often just by themselves. Insecure. Little lights in the darkness of the expanse that is art.
There is a wonderful Taoist verse from the Tao ti Ching that seems to hit the creation of art squarely:
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing but not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is the Primal Virtue.
The creation of a work is birth, and I believe the best parents are those who allow their children to grow and mature without possessing them. Our art is our child, and we excel when we allow it to blossom and grow without making demands and forcing it to be a certain way. The writing belongs to the readers, not to the writer. This is a lesson I’ve come to learn.
My Facebook newsfeed is rife with colleagues’ statuses of word count goals, especially around the time of NanoWriMo. Every day someone is touting “I wrote 2,000 words” or “I made 10,000 words!” Every time I wonder, when I read these, is it important as a goal just to complete something or to actually create something?
When faced with a personally-imposed deadline, ask yourself, what is more important – the destination or the journey? The greatest authors were those who wrote because of the needling beast that demands to be written. Create and therefore you are created. The journey of art is not a business one; nor is it merely a quest for attention and respect. Creating artistic works is only because it is a birth, as a child’s birth; it is merely coincidence that we are rewarded with fame or fortune.
So, what is it we should remind ourselves when we artists commit to a relationship with a new creative work? That this new being is a journey of self. That it does not belong to us, but to those who will love it. It is for them, and it is not our possession as the creation. Let go of your hard goals and complete the work when it reaches that point to complete it, when it is done.