I had a similar moment at the end of my sophomore year of college. I felt a restlessness in my bones and this pervasive sense of dread at the bottom of my stomach. By then, I had done everything my advisors, mentors and upperclassmen had suggested: I explored. I had explored all the possibilities I was even remotely interested in.
I studied archeology, anthropology, history, film, race and ethnicity… Nothing spoke to me. I finally gave up following other people’s advice and went with what did speak to me: theater.
What it was at the time I did not know. But two years passed where I felt incredibly at home and in a state of creative bliss. Miraculously, the people around me finally understood me and I understood them. It was easy making friends then, and I jumped from creative project to creative project swiftly and effortlessly, always challenging myself until senior year I finally churned out the most grueling and monumental of tasks any artist could undertake: I wrote and performed a one-man performance piece.
Friends and even some strangers gave me positive feedback. But to tell you the truth, instead of feeling fulfilled and accomplished after the process, I felt (this may sound strange but) violated. Something painful had happened. I didn’t realize until later but the truth is that creativity can be overdone. I produced, marketed, wrote and acted the heck out of that project. I micro managed to excess, to the point where I ended up sweeping the floor on closing night.
Some can manage this artistic overload. But others, like me, can find the process much too trying for their souls. Needless to say, I had to let that work rest. I let it go, and opened myself up to new possibilities.
Now in the state of gel (Mayan for “a space of infinite possibilities”), I felt like I was right back at the beginning of freshman year in college. Again, everyone around me had an idea of what they thought I should next, but this time, I had just graduated. Many of these ideas came from well-meaning, very important and loving people in my life. That’s probably why, for a while, I was thrown back into it again. Exploring.
I’m starting to think that exploring really means: “taking the long way back to yourself.” Because that’s exactly what happened: I took another long and hard road only to end up back to my truth. And my truth was this: I had moved from acting to writing.
Writing felt right and it felt true. But it was out-of-place with what people were familiar with. They knew me as an actor and expected I would continue to do it. I slowly tried to drop hints that this was no going to be so, but it seemed their thoughts of who they thought I was persisted. Sometimes, out of habit, I would engage them in this old view of myself, simply because it seemed too painful to break it (I still do it sometimes). But I was only doing myself a disservice. Lying about who I had now become was only feeding my doubts about my creativity and forcing me to become more and more isolated as a creative person.
So, after two years of doubting (and one big free fall into the most serious of self-doubts: despair). I returned from all my exploring and ended up home. But home was not some obscure place that a friend or family member or cryptic zen monk told me home was located. Home was where I had always known it to be: at my laptop while I played with words and attempted to master the art of storytelling.
I did. I just didn’t want to face it. That’s why the blog is called “The Courage to Create.” Because being creative takes courage. Being creative in an art form where you are basically a beginner requires even more strength. In a world where art is not only seen as a hobby, but worse, an expendable item on the budget, choosing a career in the arts is sometimes a sacrifice of tremendous proportions. (Even the most dramatic of artists wishes that statement was an exaggeration.) Being yourself is the truest sign of bravery.
This is going to take patience. This is going to take guts. This is a project that will need your support. So a comment here and there for encouragement is always welcome!
So here it is. Screw exploring. I’m planting my flag and I’m looking to build. I’m living on this island because I can no longer live without the great view.
Today I commit myself to writing my first novel.
It’s a risk. But I know, and I have known for the past two years, that for me, it is the only risk that is worthwhile.
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