The battery on my smartphone is dying. It keeps a charge for about six hours, then zip. Gone. Dead as a brick. At first, this was a major annoyance. The phone needs to be upgraded; its planned obsolescence has arrived. I like upgrading technology about as much as I like cleaning gutters, so we've limped along for months, me, uttering foul insults every time it died.
But something's happened in the last few weeks. I've come to appreciate the dead air. Instead of curse the black screen, I breath a sigh of relief. Ah, finally, a moment's peace. I don't rush to plug it in and recharge. It's gone, and the freedom from the chirping reminders causes me to want more silence. Even when it's on silent mode, it's still a powerful force field. Rather than invigorate my life, the phone and its conveniences have become a drain.
More specifically, it siphons my ability to create. Not always, but more than it should.
This has been a year of creative introspection for me. I started down this path unknowingly. I joined two groups in early 2015. One, started by a life coach transitioning out of being a life coach. Another, a class on living as an artist taught by a poet. These groups brought forth ideas about what it truly means to live an artistic life. Let me tell you, it's not the easiest life you can choose. It requires discipline, determination, a courageous belief in yourself, that ordinary 9-to-5 work doesn't necessarily require. No offense to anyone working a typical job. In many ways, I envy you. The structure, the stability, the camaraderie of working on a shared cause or task. Those are embraceable ideals. Writing for a living, even as a paid freelancer, lacks many traditional warm fuzzies.
So why do it? That's not a question I can answer altogether coherently today. My answer would change tomorrow, and two weeks from now, and in a year. I've chosen to survive by my creative wits because it seems the right thing to do at this moment, and I want to give myself the chance to see where it will take me. I'm not quite there yet. I'm not quite the artistic savant, the accomplished art entrepreneur, the one to take pointers from about success.
But I have learned this year that my creative urges are important to safe keep. Obstacles to creative freedom lurk around every corner. They come in the form of smartphones; of well-meaning people; of negative self-talk. They are real: bills and family obligations. They are made-up: no one liked my post/tweet/comment. I recognize them now, after a year of understanding how artists build resilience. You must have deep personal resilience to make it as an artist. You must positively believe in yourself, Pollyanna style, illogically optimistic, so sickeningly sure of yourself that very little strikes you down.
Because the world will. It's just gonna happen.
I wish it weren't so. Follow your dreams and your dreams will reward you? No guarantee. Your goal may need to shift, not to ideas of success but to an appreciation of the creativity you've been granted. If you guard your creativity, you will have it. Nothing more. It will be there when you want it. In it, lives the potential to open windows of contentment. This, I know.
Watch and read more related thought:
"Stop Googling: Let's Talk." NYT Sunday Review
Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear, Authenticity and Big Magic