During my three week vacation and trip out west, I did a lot of reading and no writing, which had the effect of making me think quite a bit about my writing in a philosophical sense – specifically what I gain from the practice that keeps me going. My ideas are still helter-skelter, but I thought I’d plunk them down anyway before I forget. One of the questions I ruminated on is why I’ve become so enthusiastic about the idea of keeping my art completely free. I know many others, with good reason, see the point differently. I’m not saying that artists don’t deserve to be compensated for their work, which enriches humanity — but for me, the freedom from thinking in those terms was exhilarating, and infused me with a fresh love of the joy of creating art for its own sake. When I quit worrying about the traditional route of publication and marketing, I found myself refreshingly free from the confusing and daunting process of hoping to find agents and editors and publishers, as important a service as they all offer. I was like a kid again. I could create just for the sheer joy of it, share it with the world as I’m making it, flaws and all, cast my stories to the wind like a child blowing on a dandelion, knowing that a hundred seeds might not find good soil, but if even one should take root and brighten the heart of another child with its pert shock of yellow, then the world would be immeasurably richer a place.
If you ever saw my yard you would know that, against the wise and practical advice of my betters, I choose to let my trees and bushes grow as wildly as they want to — I only cut them away from the house and wherever I might need a path for walking. I feel like my plants and I are living in mutual respect, each supportive of the ambitions of the other to flourish as extravagantly as he can stretch out. I take joy in seeing my stories come out like that — unpruned to regular dimensions, uncontrollable, alive with their own untamable spirit, imperfect in the way of all living things. I do edit my stories meticulously before I’m done with them, for the record, but I’ve learned that editing works better at the end of the process, after they’ve had a chance to grow organically.
But it made me wonder, why would I spend so much time and labor on something that I’m not expecting or trying to be compensated for in the way of recognition, money, or even readership? This led me to the realization that, in my own life, I need at least three spheres of striving for achievement and significance to make me feel happy and fulfilled: those of family, work, and art. Coming to view my life in this threefold way was the most basic result of my rumination. I found it helpful because, when I was feeling out of sorts I had an immediate assessment tool to help myself understand why. Often, I feel the trouble arises from an imbalance in these three spheres.
I consider myself blessed in all three arenas. I have an amazing family and friends whom I enjoy spending time with, which, I believe, is the most important thing of all. I’m also fortunate to have a job that helps people in significant and necessary ways, that I enjoy, and that I feel I’m good at. That’s also incredibly important for my happiness and sense of fulfillment.
But that’s still not quite enough, which is why I’m driven to create art. In a way, the struggle of an artist is like the struggle of a parent. It’s a labor of love, a giving of yourself – your essence, your time, your energy – in a self-sacrificial outpouring for a noble purpose. It’s the endeavor to leave behind a beautiful legacy and make the world a better place in some lasting way. It’s the same impulse that drives people to raise flower gardens or paint a beautiful sunset. When utilitarian ends are excised, art is free to exist for its own sake.
So now, after a three week break, I’m eager to get back to my stories and see what Perrin and Cerelys have been up to. I have a feeling that their story is only beginning and I look forward to seeing them continue on their way as I meet with them one afternoon a week and record what I observe. It keeps me happy.
So look for the next chapter soon. I’ll keep writing as I have time in the balancing act of life. Feel free to read along or not – I don’t know what your balancing act looks like so I won’t presume to counsel you. Either way I’ll be here with all my characters, striving to be happy and leave behind something nice as I journey onward, just as all of you, in your own way, are likewise striving to do.
And now, rambling complete, I’ll return to my stories. Be happy, everyone.