You’ve heard that stigma, right? The one that labels creative types the emotional roller coaster, mentally unstable–let’s call it “never a dull moment”–yet are so full of creativity that they leave others in awe of their art. Yeah, that… that’s me, almost in a nutshell. I still need more practice with leaving people in awe of my art, my writing. I’m still a no-name author who’s trying to be someone. I’ve got two books out there, a third soon to follow, and a definite fourth I want to have out by Christmas, but January will probably be more realistic. It’s a start. I’m getting something done.
Still, with all these good things happening, I find myself struggling to feel proud or happy. Someone on Facebook linked a speech Niel Gaiman gave to a bunch of graduates years ago. For me, it was a good reality check. Here are his six nuggets of advice/wisdom, along with a few quotes that struck a chord, reminding me that I’m in the right place, even though things feel so hopeless as of late. To get the full effect, I highly recommend allotting 20 minutes of your time to listen to the full speech. He has a voice you could listen to all day.
1. When you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you’re doing.
“The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who have not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do. And because no one’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop people doing that particular thing again.”
2. If you have an idea of what you’re on this earth to do, then go and do it.
3. You have do deal with the problems of failure…
“I decided that I’d do my best in the future to not write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. And if I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work. […] It’s true that nothing I do, when the only reason I do it, is the money was ever worth it, except this bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money either. The things I did because I was excited, or wanted to see exist in reality never let me down, and I never regretted the time I spent on any of it.”
“They couldn’t envisage a world where they did what they always wanted to do anymore because now they had to earn a certain amount every month, just to keep where they were. They couldn’t do the things that mattered, and they really wanted to do, and that seemed as big a tragedy as any problem of failure.”
4. If you make mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.
“And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.”
5. Make your art. Do the stuff only you can do.
“Most of us only find our own voices after we sound like a lot of other people.”
6. Enjoy it.
“Best advice I ever got that I ignored. Instead, I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. […] There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn’t writing something in my head or wondering about it, and I didn’t stop and look around and go, ‘This is really fun.’ […] There were parts that I missed because I was too worried about things going wrong, what came next, that I didn’t enjoy the bit I was on.”
Here is the full video:
Once again, we have the theme that life is about the journey, not the destination. These words haunt me; however, I’ve had to admit that my desperation to see my writing do well, to live off my own words independently, to have all my happiness riding on my amazon.com ranking has been nothing short of miserable. I’ve been constantly asking myself “Why am I alive? Why am I alive if my writing is going to fail, too?” I’ve been driving myself into the ground with an internal dialogue–yes, dialogue–convincing myself that my life is a waste, when it’s not.
I’m in a stage in my life where I need to learn some things before I can go forward. The latest lesson being to enjoy my writing, instead of doing it only for the money.
I honest to goodness do get immeasurable enjoyment out of the process of writing. Drafting, plotting, outlining, editing, revising, sending it off to test readers, getting feedback and discussing critiques. All of it. But then that enjoyment goes poof so easily, thanks to my mental demons. I’ve struggled with depression since age 14. I don’t readily admit it because if you’ve never experienced it, you won’t understand it. My roommate doesn’t understand it.
But anyway, I’m always looking for new ways to combat my depression. Neil Gaiman proved to be the messenger I needed to deliver the message I’ve heard countless times before. This was confirmed by another dream I had the following night. Ridicule me all you want, but I’m a firm believer that our dreams reflect who we are and where we’re going internally. They can serve as warnings and draw attention to areas of your life that are most important. This particular dream stated that I’ve finally taken another step forward in my personal journey.
I’m in the audience in a taping of Ellen when I’m called down to be a guest. Vin Diesel’s onstage with Ellen and I’m so thrilled and nervous to meet them both. But I’m in the middle of eating glazed walnuts and struggled to chew them fast enough. A lady behind the camera gets annoyed and tells me to hurry up, so I sprint down the stairs and leap across this gap to the stage, and take a seat. The leap’s impressive. I try to get a reaction of Vin but he doesn’t care. He’s very aloof. The next bit gets fuzzy, then I remember asking Ellen why she asked me to be on the show. Next thing I know, I suddenly remember I want to hug them both, so I get up and hug Ellen, then Vin gets up and hugs me, but I’m barely taller than his waist. My eyes are level with his stomach. I’m confused because I know in reality I’m maybe an inch shorter than him. He starts to leave yet gives me this expectant look. I finally blurt some words out, asking him to take a look at my writing. He stops, takes out a piece of lined paper, and writes something on the back of the page, and tells me he will.
Vin symbolizes everything I wish to be and have. He’s highly successful, well loved, does what he loves as a day job, and is really happy. In past dreams he’s always been aloof, I’ve always struggled to get his attention, and can never seem to say the right thing. Me finally saying something directly to him and him taking note is a huge step–well small, but it’s a big deal. It gives me hope. No, I’m gonna literally meet those two, nor am I suddenly going to get tons of attention, hence Vin scribbling something down on the back of the page, but I’m finally moving forward.