Lately, I’ve been given cause to seriously consider my writing career and to ask myself why I’m truly engaged in the pursuit. Though I am an optimist by nature, it does occur to me that as a universal rule, one can only work with a situation successfully as long as it works with them. When it comes to most things in life, there is an art to meeting things half-way, to staying in the middle, to watching the dynamic of cause and effect in one’s life, to not over-extending oneself, nor taking things personally. It’s helpful for a writer to keep this in mind when it comes to the experience of rejection. This is not to say that it’s a bad thing to be goal oriented, only that there is folly in putting a time frame on the long range goal. Many writers want to see measurable progress according to their time-table, but this is where we’re best shown that we are not in control. I think the adage of showing up, doing the work, and being unattached to outcome is the aim, but how to seriously achieve this stance of nonattachment; this acceptance of our lack of control? Artists tend to be emotionally involved in their creations. We want to see the fruits of our labors manifest, elsewise, what’s it all for? But I’m going to take this to a soul level and say the soul only wants to create; it wants the experience of creation as its reality, and if one considers art from this premise, then it is enough to create. So the fundamental question for any artist to ask themselves is do you want the glory of the experience, or do you want to reap a reward? The world will tell you success looks a certain way at a particular end and therein lies your validation, but what attitude are we to assume until that fateful day? What price happiness, and how are we to manage within an arena whose premise is to contribute then relinquish control? The thing is, we have no control, and assuming we do sets us up for all kinds of false premises, wherein frustration, self-doubt, victimization, and all the rest are given license. As a writer, I think art for art’s sake is the answer because we can’t control our reception. We may or may not gain riches and recognition, but if we engage the artistic flow as a way of being in the world and are in the right relationship with its unpredictability, then I think we can say we’re living a successful life. It’s not necessary to be the choreographer of the show, it’s only necessary that we are wise enough to dance.
Author’s note: This post is in response to Jason Howell’s question of the week on his blog, Howlarium, of which I am an avid fan:
Q: How often are you able to create a desired result for yourself by sheer force of will, or by arranging circumstances? Do you ever feel as though the reason you aren’t far enough along is that you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough, even though you’ve worked very hard? In your writing life or otherwise—is control really all it’s cracked up to be?
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