Artistic Survival

The other day I heard myself say to a friend, “I lack discipline. I am being lazy, that’s all.”

Those words (coming from me) sounded somewhat strange to my own ears. Because not long ago I had read in a book that as artists being blocked and being lazy were two different things.


And I thought: Is there something I am truly afraid of that is holding me back? What is it this time? Am I afraid to write truly what I feel? Am I afraid that I will hurt some people by what I have to say? Will they recognize themselves in my story?

But isn’t writing all about bearing your soul? Isn’t it about the truth? To quote Ernest Hemingway:

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” 

So here’s the thing:

I can write honestly and truly and forget all about being nice and risk being not-nice and not give a dime about who is going to get hurt. And bear the consequences. Because clear, direct, and honest writing surely draws criticism, especially from people we know. But as a writer isn’t it always exhilarating to write from deep within? Isn’t it always:

“It is always a thrilling risk to say exactly what you mean, to express exactly what you say.” Patricia Hampl

Sometimes anxiety about the reaction of other people can cripple a writer. So is it the case with me now? Do I choose to write guardedly and not be true to myself if only to protect others? Maybe I can still write but adopt an obscure and evasive style. A style that I personally don’t like to read let alone write. Because by writing evasively I think the author underestimates the readers in assuming that they can’t figure out what he/she is trying to say. And that in my opinion is not writing.

There is yet an easier way: I can also choose to not write at all or put it off indefinitely. Just like I said to my friend, “Some day when the time is right, I will actually sit down at my desk and write.”

Julia Cameron writes:
“One of the most difficult tasks and artist must face is a primal one: artistic survival. All artists must learn the art of surviving loss; loss of hope, loss of face, loss of money, loss of self-belief.”


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