dilly-dallying, validating and that sort of thing

6 November 2009

A friend and fellow writer and former student says to me in an email this morning, “I’m thinking that perhaps I am a writer of sorts.”

Don’t let him fool you. He’s a writer.

It’s easy for me to say from where I sit, outside of his head and about 75 km away.  However, I’ve listened to and read his stories and I’ve seen his peers respond to them with genuine enjoyment. He’s focused and comitted.  I do wholly understand his rather hesitating, roundabout way of sort of saying that particular thing. If that beating around the bush kind of saying something were to occur in one of his stories, I’d have been all over it with my 3B pencil.  But I get *that* one.

See, it’s a decision, really.  And my tongue-in-cheek friend has heard me say it numerous times while sporting my teacher hat: “Call yourself a writer.  Because when you do, things happen, the world changes. You start to see in a different way – with a writer’s eyes.”

Me – I made that decision sitting on a bus in downtown Detroit on my way to work one morning in another decade. I was looking out the window at that decrepit and beautiful city and its people and its myriad stories when I said it to myself, “I’m a writer.”

For some people, like me, it takes a long time to get to that point of self-validation. For others it was always there – it never had to be stated or authenticated in any way. Me, I had to validate. All my life I had been artistically disposed, and it was much encouraged as I was growing up. When I got to my later years in high school though, the encouragement began to be withdrawn, culminating in about 30 seconds, when I was told that really important people in my life thought I wasn’t good enough to be able to make a living at being an artist. Without going into the [obvious] psychological gold mine swirling around that statement, I will say I’ve nailed it down as the prime source of a subsequent life-long creative block. It’s a battle I fight to this day.

I’m not going to use this spot to blame and point and say “if only” because it’s my life and my process and on that bus ride in Detroit that day I claimed it back. Anyway, there are generations of situations and realities surrounding that moment which begat the internal thwarting of my creative process. But I will say that now I can acknowledge and understand that being artistic or creative is something that doesn’t have to produce a masterpiece every time (or any time) to be valid and worthwhile. And it doesn’t matter how many people say yes, you ARE good at it, but it sure feels great and is exceedingly motivating when someone does.

What matters is that you make your art a way of being.  Because then it becomes a way of seeing, and then it becomes a way of living with authenticity.  And with that you find living to be richer with more colour and meaning.  And you wonder why you had to dilly-dally around with the whole “validating” exercise in the first place.

Enjoy one of Jeff’s stories here.  Another one is scheduled to be run in the same spot in a few weeks.


8 Responses to “dilly-dallying, validating and that sort of thing”

  1. ...Mmm... Says:

    I really like what you’ve written here. so very true. Adn beside which, at least for you, …you even look like a writer! Charm and smarts.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks Mmm – I’m chuffed!

  3. Reluctant Blogger Says:

    Yes, it’s interesting when one moves from saying “I am good at writing/painting/maths” to saying “I am a writer/painter/mathematician”. For many things I suppose there is a fixed point – a qualification one obtains that marks one out as a doctor or lawyer or whatever but for writing and painting there is not. I think I shifted from saying I “studied maths or was good at maths” to saying I was a mathematician when I started to work in field, when I was being paid I suppose. But really I was a mathematician long before that, since I was a child.

    How interesting.

    I’m glad you reclaimed the title back for yourself.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    You know RB – I failed to mention that the job in Detroit was the first one in which I was being paid to be a writer. I’m sure that had much to do with the inner ‘qualifying!’

  5. I can really relate to this post. Hence the journey my blog is recording! Thank you for finding my blog and opting to follow it. “What matters is that you make your art your way of being. Because then it becomes a way of seeing, and then it becomes a way of living with authenticity.” This really resonated with me, as I think it states pretty clearly the journey I am currently taking. HOpe you’re having a great day.

    • Jennifer Says:

      It’s wonderful to find friends out there who share a perspective and who are embarking on a similar journey. I look forward to being inspired by yours!

  6. Hi , I found your blog after you commented on mine, and I will come back. I like this post, and can attest ‘if you build it they come’ mentality. I declared myself an artist many years ago and within months was full time and never looked back. As my writing as evolved, I have felt shy about saying ‘writer’, but I boldly changed my main site to say ‘artist and writer’ after years of writing. It felt good, and I’m open to the universal gifts to come! I’ll be back.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you Katherine, I’m glad you visited.

    I must say, I’m glad you declared yourself both artist and writer back then because I enjoy both your art and your writing.


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