Facing Creative Guilt

At this point in my writing career I have one novel set to be published. That does not happen until midway through 2021. I also happen to be counted among the 40 some million workers in the United States currently facing unemployment. Lucky for me, my wife owns her own online business and is doing well enough to support our family. One would think that this would permit me ample time to make progress on my follow up novel, and build my voice and presence as a writer.

Here’s the issue. Life doesn’t work that way. Creative careers in things such as writing, painting, drawing, dancing, singing, cooking, and many other art forms require more than time. They require your complete attention. They require you to soak up all the stress, pain, joy, heartache, triumph and inspiration from your life, and channel it into something meaningful. Something others can digest, struggle with, be entertained by, and process in a way that both entertains and challenges the status quo.

When these two worlds collide we are faced with what I call, creative guilt. When time meets opportunity, art doesn’t just erupt from our fingertips, tongues, and minds. Creativity needs inspiration, and clear headspace. Once we consider these extra components, creative work seems far less attainable. If this sounds all too familiar to you, know that you are not alone. More than that, you might be on the verge of a significant breakthrough.

I’ll use my life as an example. I have four kids. Between online school, things being closed due to covid 19, and supporting my wife’s need to run her business, my brain power is spent re-learning algebra, teaching a 2nd grader cursive, quelling sibling squabbles, preparing meals, and doing my fair share of housework. I know more about Fortnite statistics and what Roblox games are trending than I care to admit.

But that’s not all. Something else is happening in our world right now that requires our undivided attention. The biggest civil rights movement since Dr. King walked our streets is taking place, and it’s worth every second of our time. Those of us in the creative fields need to pay even closer attention. Listen. Learn. Repeat. Soak up the stories of others. Bend your mind to try to understand what others might be living through. Even if it’s only a little bit more than you did yesterday.

With all that is going on in our lives and in our world right now, it’s hard to find the space to be creative. Even if you have the time, your heart and mind are rightfully pulled in other directions. Listen to that pull. Learn from it. It will make you a better person and a better writer. Don’t let creative guilt stop you from realizing that simply living in this unprecedented time is deepening your ability to write believable characters, weave intriguing plots, and create meaningful work. But that only happens if you let go of the creative guilt. Open your heart. Open your mind. Don’t let something this historic, this monumentally important, turn into nothing but a trendy hashtag. Exist in your discomfort. Exist in your pain. Exist in the awkwardness and the raw feelings of emotion. Exist in your anger and your rage. Let it lead to something real. Something that brings more equality, humanity, and life to this world. Let it influence your writing, your songs and your art. Let it change you for more than just the life of a movement. Let it change you for good.

If i’ve learned anything about writing over the years it’s that in order to grow your writing, you must grow your character. Set the creative guilt aside. Exist in this difficult struggle to free the oppressed of our world from injustice. Be present with your families and the daily needs of your home. Let all of it sculpt the writer, the artist, and the person you aspire to become.

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