October 16, 2016

The Beautiful Agony Of Being An Artist

Report This Article
What is the issue?
Google Pixel

Is it normal to hate the very thing that we love? Or is it just me? Let me try and explain.

I have this thing that I do: I write. I guess you could call me a writer then. Because after all, that’s what I do; I write. I do not make a living of it. I do not manage to do it every day or for as long as I want or in the manner that I’d hope. But all the same, I write, very regularly, with a passion, and almost with a need.

But there are times when I feel like the last thing in the world I could do, is write. The idea of dragging myself to my desk, opening the word document and staring at a blank page is painful. The thought of turning over and over in my mind the possibilities for a story; searching for scenery, listening for characters, finding their motives — sometimes it all feels utterly beyond my grasp.

Imagine being asked to scale a wall when suddenly you’ve shrunk to three inches tall. That’s how it feels.

But I love writing. I cannot imagine myself without it. I cannot envision a life devoid of it. But at the same time, there are times, that I hate it. The ideas, they come. Visions full of energy and promise. Places emerge in my mind, then characters and dialogue. As I continue though these clear forms tend to dissipate into a haze in which I can no longer locate my storyline. The story can take no form, it begins, treads only so long, and then hangs in midair.

Often I do not feel like I can save it. I cannot be the hero of my story — I cannot salvage it. So, I hate it. I despise it. I get frustrated and impatient. I want to give up; I want to cry.

I want to retreat into a corner, and I want to burst outside. I want to run until I collapse.

I jump up from my seat, and I pace around my apartment instead. Thoughts run rigorously through my mind; thoughts about writing, about worth, about talent––there’s something about futility thrown in too. It gets very loud on the inside. My apartment is silent.

I remember, explaining my agony to a friend when I was writing a short story. In response, he said, “Wow. I didn’t know you hated writing fiction so much.”

“But no, that’s not it at all, I don’t hate it!” I said in a rush. “In fact, I love it so much that, at times, I cannot help but hate it. It is so important to me that producing anything less than what I envision just taints it.”

But he will never understand, I realized. He doesn’t write.

Moments later, I sit back down, I reach for my laptop and I pull up a new document. I begin to write again. All the noise in my mind: the turmoil, the chaos, the destruction that’s going on — everything, I let it out. I pour it out onto the page and I watch it unfold sentence after sentence for minutes or for hours. My fingers like translators of my emotional world.

Until eventually, it comes to rest.

The noise grows to stillness. The chaos becomes a calm. And there, at the end of that page, I remember, again, why I love to write.

Hemingway had said that writing is easy, “You just sit at a typewriter and you bleed.” He got it.

Writing does not always come easily. On days it’s like trying to “carve scrimshaw while wearing oven mitts,” as Elizabeth Gilbert had described it. But because I have this thing that I do, I write, I keep coming back. Because ultimately, it’s all part of the process.

While writing gives me great joy, it also breaks my heart.

And maybe this is deeply tragic, but, I do think that’s part of why I love it so much. So maybe it’s not normal to hate the thing that you love, but in any case, it happens, and that doesn’t mean you love it any less. TC mark

Read This