In my second year of art school, I had a painting teacher who taught attitude along with technique. He talked about how we needed to love making art more than love being an artist.
At first I didn’t understand the difference.
Something happened, though, after I graduated. His words stuck with me, and the longer I made art, the more I experienced how my love of making carried me through the hard spots. If I had loved being an artist more than making art, I would have quit.
When I began writing, I carried this experience and understanding with me. Problem was, it didn’t transfer completely. I still had to learn to love writing the same way I had learned to love drawing, by doing it.
At first I mainly loved Being A Writer, reveling in how I felt when I said to myself, “I am a Writer.” The feeling was not so enjoyable when actually writing. I loved the concept, but sometimes the doing was capital-H Hard. I became frustrated and depressed at how slow it was, and editing was oh-my-ugly.
What saved me was the fact I loved reading books, and every amazing read made me want to really, truly be a writer who was writing.
I found ways to keep writing. I read creativity books and let them inspire me. I listened to writers talk about their work and process. I freely bribed myself. When none of those worked, I used guilt. Guilt always worked, sooner or later.
Slowly, what I had experienced with making art happened with writing. The more I did it, the more I loved doing it. The more I wrote, the more I trusted I could write, even the hard bits.
On Monday this week, I took myself to my favourite café and spent the whole day writing.
During the afternoon, a woman came in and sat two chairs over from me. She pulled out a stack of paper like mine, a pen, and Halloween candy. Got her coffee and settled, I thought, to write.
I was wrong.
She rearranged her papers. Clicked her pen a bunch. Looked out the window. Looked around the café. Kicked her chair leg for a while. Chatted and laughed with people who walked past her. Looked over at me like she wanted to start a conversation.
In the meantime, I was writing and becoming increasingly irritated by this person. She was distracting me from what I wanted to be doing, which was writing.
I noticed I was judging her, big time. She had her tools in front of her, yet she was doing everything except writing. I decided she was one of those who loved the idea of being a writer but didn’t love doing the writing. A pretender, while I was the real thing.
Wow. Me being snarky. Very.
I felt bad, judging myself for judging her. I should know better. I’ve been where she is, done exactly what she’s doing. Maybe she needed a change of scenery after writing all morning at home. Maybe she needed distraction as part of her process. Maybe she gained ideas from talking with random strangers.
I kept writing while this flashed through my mind and feelings.
I wondered why I was irritated by her activity. She was doing me no harm. I was distracting myself by allowing my focus to wander over to her.
I knew I was in a hard place in my draft. I was struggling, feeling overwhelmed, not sure I could bring this all together. Doubting myself as a writer.
I understood. I wanted distraction. More than that, she looked like she was enjoying herself, and I wasn’t. She looked relaxed. I wasn’t.
I was feeling jealous, too.
I kept writing.
There is the important thing—I kept writing. I let myself be distracted enough to move out of the writing, realized what was happening inside me and how I was feeling. Realized I was working my way through a hard spot in my writing, it was getting to me, and I needed to release pressure by putting my frustration on someone or something else.
I understood. I forgave myself.
I silently appreciated the woman near to me who was enjoying the feeling of being a writer. I knew how good that felt, and I let myself enjoy her enjoyment.
And I kept writing.