In her book Your Art Will Save Your Life, Beth Pickens debunks the myth of the lazy writer or artist. Procrastination, she asserts, is just a symptom of fear. In her words, “I don’t know lazy artists…artists have a whole extra job they are compelled to do, one that may or may not yield any income…. This is not the marker of a lazy person or a procrastinator.”
What a great insight! How many of your friends and family pick up their computers to squeeze out a few more words to up their daily word count before bed? How many are up before dawn to create something before starting their working days? How many beat themselves up if they don’t manage to do these things for a little while?
So take heart – we’re NOT lazy! We’re just afraid.
Very, very afraid.
But what are we afraid of?
Rejection is probably the most common answer among the writer’s I know. Even those who are aware that it’s part of the process still cringe with every rejection letter they collect. Even worse are the rejections that are assumed from silence. There’s nothing like sending your baby into the world only to discover that the person you sent it to can’t even be bothered to send you a two-line email saying, ‘thanks for trying, but this isn’t for me.’ I’ve been there; it stings.
What about recognition though? In many ways, I think this is the subtler, deeper fear. The angst that others won’t like our work, won’t like our message, and forever after will associate us with that work, or perhaps even transfer their dislike for what we created on to us personally.
This is such a tricky one because many artists are striving for recognition, desperate to take their places among the greats in their field. To be a household name. How many of us crave this because we’re hoping the masses will confirm the value of our work?
Then there’s the question of how much of your work is representative of you. How much truth is there in what people may infer about your opinions and values based on what you’ve written or made? The more of you that is in your work, the more it hurts when someone shrugs it off or criticizes it because they disagree with either the content or the style.
There will always be critics, though — those who have a different opinion or prefer a different style. So YOU are going to have to believe in your work, and be ready to shrug off those who don’t, regardless of the amount of acclaim it receives.
It’s not easy.