Friday, 17 May 2013

How Big is Your Brave?

Notice the guy in blue plaid.
Being a writer can make you feel the most universally unwanted person in the world.  When your friends get shortlisted and you don’t, or the writer of that crap play wins an award you deserved, when you start the morning with another email rejection that spells your name incorrectly, all you feel fit for is lying spread-eagled on the floor and having a good ol’ wail.  

Go ahead.  Give yourself fifteen seconds of despair.  We’re creatures of expression, after all.

 I once read an article that said the mental health of writers isn’t great.  We spend a lot of time by ourselves creating fantasies, without the intermittent positive response or even a pay cheque to keep us going.  We have to ignore the constant rejection, improve our craft without losing our voice, yet still be able to hear the truth about our work.  It takes a particularly fine sorting skill to achieve all that. 

Apparently the difference between us and other artistic media is that in addition to the isolated nature of the work, we don’t have a tangible product unless we’re published.  No song to hum to ourselves.  No still life to hang on the wall.  Just a ream of paper tucked in a cupboard or a file on our desktop.  We have to believe in the intangible while living in a materialistic society.  What do you suppose the end result of that’s going to be?  It doesn’t take a mental health professional to see creature-of-expression plus no-audience equals spread-eagled-wailing. 

Big deal, eh?  Every life has sorrow built into it.  That’s a fact, right?  Well I say, anyone who believes that life only gives what we can handle, that person isn’t really paying attention.  Sometimes life punches back too hard and changes who you are.  Sometimes that change isn’t for the better.  Sometimes it damages you in ways you’ll never recover from.  That’s not something any of us want to have happen.

Happiness isn’t a passive activity.  When you see the laser dot of ego destruction on your chest, get to work.  The first and easiest thing is to ‘reframe’.  In other words, don’t let your mind downslide into negative thought.  Your friend getting shortlisted or winning that award?  Not about you.  The inability for someone to spell your name right when they’re crushing your dreams?  That’s about them.  Don’t interpret the world as out to get you.  At the most, the world outside of our immediate circle is indifferent to us.

When you do get knocked down, promise yourself to get back up again.  Eventually.  In due time.  When the wailing is done.  Keep this promise to yourself.  Do Not Give Up.

Check out your social environment.  Do the people closest to you support your writing or do they invade your writing time, not show up to readings, ‘inadvertently’ shred your latest collection of poems?  Do you meet with other writers?  Do you attend literary events in your community?  Do other writers know you in the flesh or only on Twitter and Facebook?  If your social environment is failing you, rethink it.  You are doing one of the most challenging things in the arts world.  Social science confirms this.  You cannot do it if you don’t have a warm and loving nest.  

Now comes the hard part.  Know in the depths of your marrow that you have the right to be here.  You have the right to express yourself.  You deserve to be heard.  You contribute something to this world that no other person, writer or non-writer, contributes.  You are your contribution and this is the only time you have to offer it.  Right here.  Right now.

Okay, so now watch this Sara Bareilles music video, Brave.  While you’re watching it, pay attention to the guy in the blue plaid shirt.  That’s what you’re striving for.  An unreserved commitment to enjoying your own expression.

Show me your brave.

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