This year was one unlike any we’ve seen before it. Amid an already tense election, we were told we should quarantine, that we should wear masks if we do go out, that we should be safe and careful. So most of us obeyed those rules. We locked up tight and remained home as often as we could, and we began counting slowly and quietly during the chaos outside.
I kept to myself despite somehow being deemed an essential worker and I continued through the quarantine running food to customers of the restaurant. I parsed my days out poorly, amid the shutdown. Most of my time was spent playing games or sleeping when I wasn’t at work. I made it a point to relax and expend the pent-up tension of each day which, at the time, was filled with frustration.
When the 2019 initially turned over and we began hearing rumors about the quarantine, I had already gone some number of months without writing anything at all. When the lockdown hit us, I chose still to bide my time in solitude with my wife by wasting away in the dark, rather than building up the desire to continue the thing that I once thought would be my passion forever.
It was a difficult year, and that difficulty comes from many places, but the hardest thing I went through this year was the absence of writing. You would think that despite being holed up alone for 10 waking hours of a day and the only task that was required of me was to drive a big van around for three or four hours, I would have spent that time a bit more wisely. This however was not the case. I distinctly remember scrolling through social media around March and wondering how all of these people dedicated themselves to honing a craft while the world seemed to stop around them. I was jealous, then. Jealous of the peace that they held, maybe. I was jealous of their determination to turn the bad things this year into good things. Conversely, I sat at home and complained about people’s attitudes. I complained about the fact that I was lucky enough to work. I complained a lot, as the quarantine hit.
Despite having a life filled to the brim with people who love me and support my dreams, there is still so often this voice in the back of my head that whispers shrill promises into my ears. Promises that I will never succeed. Promises that the life I want so badly will never be available to me. I gave into those voices again this year, despite all the experience I’ve had shoving them away before.
This year, I considered quitting writing altogether.
This decision came from a great many places. Primarily, from the realization that if I wanted to do this and I set myself down to become an author a la Brandon Sanderson or Stephen King, that my wife and I would be living with little money, or worse, in debt, for a long time. I worried so much as the world stopped about how I would feed my future children what with writing casually on the blog. I worried greatly then, how I would afford emergency repairs for our vehicles. What if, I asked myself, one of us comes down with a vast sickness. Surely I won’t have the skill to blow it away with words. I can’t merely speak away my pain or my misfortune.
I fell into a deep hole by mid-March as I worked through an old project I have carried with me as a burden for years. I reworked the story and the characters and when I was finished I restarted. Nothing could ever have been good enough for me.
Anything I create is rarely good enough for me, but I am learning to be patient with myself. I am still a work in progress.
With the quarantine came much discussion between my circles and many others online. Particularly what stood out to me were how many conversations I’d seen about those in positions like myself, albeit professionally. As we plunged into the depths of the sludge by the time April came around I had seen no less than a hundred comments along the lines of “Actors and painters need to get jobs if they want to survive.” From people I love and respect, and it hurt.
I have, for my entire life, desired to paint vivid images into your mind. I have desired to create characters unimaginable to some, and brilliant to me. I have wanted since my youth to set stages and let the tales I’ve spun from deep within myself alight in your minds and yet I reached a point this year where I wanted more than any of that to settle down, get a nice desk job, and push papers for the rest of my life.
But I have contemplated suicide before. I promised myself that I would fight back harder, the next time.
If I were to have given up then, maybe I would have really given up. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this today and I would have resigned to the manila-colored fate I saw in my future. But I did not give up then.
I have not given up yet.
One of the lessons I’ve learned this year is that people see things as ultimatums. Ideas and messages and duties that must be “all or nothing.” I am not all or nothing, I am and have always been more like… “Too much, or not enough.”
So as I sat on my bed on a sunny March afternoon, I decided to exorcise what new demons have come to me. See, I’ve written over ten novels since I’ve begun my journey to fulfill my dreams and in that time I have self-published one, and a collection of short stories. I have wondered more than once if this is not my purpose. I’ve let go of the thought every time because words are the most powerful thing that any of us have, and they should be treated as such.
What hurts the most, about these people telling me that those who elected to go into The Arts should resort to finding “real jobs” is no different than when I was a teenager and my teachers told me to “be realistic” about my goals. I never knew what I wanted to be when I was growing up. For a while, it was a fireman. Once it was a ninja. When I was a little boy I’m sure at one point or another I’d have taken Dinosaur as a career if in any of these instances I could moonlight as an author.
It was all I wanted then even if I couldn’t quite figure out how to say it. I always told stories as a boy and as I grew I brought that habit with me until it became a passion. Stories are what brings out the best in me, and I truly, fiercely believe that stories are what bring out the best in everyone. There is no one I know who hasn’t been molded or changed after seeing the work of a talented author or artist or director. Everyone has an attachment to the arts and it has ingrained within me a passion that I refuse to let burn away. I hope, that you have a passion like that too.
I hope no one ever insinuates that your passion is not worth having because it doesn’t earn you money immediately. If at all.
See, hearing that so many times this year and last while I was struggling with my desire to sit down and continue the grand work I’ve set apart for myself did me no favors. What it did was get me thinking. I began to believe somewhere along the line that the world really was black and white. That there was a path we should follow and a path we should not, despite all of the contrary evidence I have provided through my own life. This world is far too complicated to strangle and choke those who have a passion for art. We are often already choking ourselves with our doubt, or our fear. It goes hand in hand with creativity.
Still, what we hear (even those of us who have adjusted, and are stable) when you say to us that we should focus on something “real” is that our dreams, our aspirations, our ideas are imaginary. To tell me that I should have a “real plan” instead of writing is no different than telling me that the way I see colors dance across fields of flowers is useless. It is the same as telling me that the clever turn of phrase in encouraging conversation is dull and drab. It is as if you told me that the very things I dream of in my sleep are worth no more than loose change in your pocket.
To tell an artist that what they want to do is not “real” enough, or “reasonable” enough, is no different than telling that artist that who they are is not worth enough to the world.
I contemplated suicide before, and I don’t ever want to feel like I am not worth it to the world again.
Not that I should let your opinions influence my desire to stay. I quite enjoy my life for what it has become. Not everything is the same, but change is good. Learning is good, suffering even, is good.
But do not suffer alone.
Because as an artist who was closer to writing his own ending than he’d ever let on, the world doesn’t know how much it needs people like me. So…
As the year comes to a close, and I begin unfurling the long quill I have kept dormant for so long, I hope you know that you are in my thoughts every day. Every person who is at the end of their rope. I am thinking of you, and I do hope that one day you read something of mine and remember that this world and everything in it is beautiful, hopeful, magical, and most importantly…
Not meant to be awful.
So don’t let it be.
Fight with everything you are and everything you have. Don’t give up. We are so often overly critical of ourselves. We take those comments to heart and nestle them deep into our outstanding fears. But to everyone who has had a pet project, one you’ve loved beyond measure, I’m sure you’ve come across someone who told you that it wasn’t their favorite. That perhaps, it wasn’t good enough. That perhaps, it didn’t mean anything to them when it meant the world to you.
Well to that I say, you are not alone.
And no one ever said that critics have all the answers.
You are an art unto yourself. So go, find those who appreciate you, and even if you don’t hold the same skills as your friend who paints, or draws, or sculpts, remember that all of us are creating art with our words.
It is the only truly magical thing there is.
If you enjoyed today’s writing please share it on whatever social media outlet you enjoy the most. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out The Grimoire of Finality where you can read all of my incoming fiction writing. (It still has that new blog smell.)
I hope something I’ve said made a difference in your life, and please always remember…
Life is not meant to be awful.
Catch me on social media if you’d like to get more info/updates on what is soon to come!