Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.
Several years ago I wrote a short novel that got filed away and largely ignored. It was about a group of friends living in a place where they didn’t really fit in and their attempts to achieve greater satisfaction in life. In recent months I’ve decided to revisit that work. I’m revising it with a tentative plan to self-publish. I’ve put a lot of effort into the manuscript, and while it’s certainly not great, I feel it’s a fairly entertaining read. Even if I go the self-publishing route, it’s very possible no will ever really read it. That can get discouraging at times.
Then I read Ian Brown‘s Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year. Brown, a journalist based in Canada, started keeping a journal of his thoughts, observations, and experiences on his 60th birthday. The book has its disheartening moments – as he educates himself, and the reader, on the effects of aging on the mind and body – but at other times the book is laugh-out-loud funny. In trying to let go of fear and doubt in order to better focus his time on what really matters, Brown writes:
The sea insists a life is not much, a passing speck in time. But it also says, because a life is just a passing speck in time next to the sea, a life should try whatever it is it wants to try. Because it doesn’t matter, because a life is at one level just some particle that washes in and washes away, so you should give it a go anyway. You might as well write whatever you want to write. You might as well try.
You might as well try. It’s easy to become frustrated and question the value of your creative efforts. I prefer to take a different approach: Is there any reason you shouldn’t pursue creative ventures if that’s where your heart takes you? Even if you don’t find a large audience, why not try if that’s what you feel compelled to do? Ultimately, it’s your life and your time, and regrets now will be yours to confront in later years.
This subject reminds me of a friend from my time in California in the 1990s. She was an aspiring musician but struggling somewhat professionally. She wrote a collection of songs. That was impressive enough – she wrote the music and lyrics. Then she obtained grant money to help finance recording a CD. I was privileged to observe a small part of the process of recruiting musicians and working in an Oakland recording studio. In the end, she didn’t sell many CDs. I still found the whole thing remarkable. From concept to a professional recording that was listed on Amazon and that I still have in my music collection. I’m sure I’m not the only person still enjoying that music some twenty years later.
Brown himself, later in Sixty, offers a tip on staying focused. It’s aimed at the aging but I feel it can be helpful to anyone:
This is why many writers stop writing as they get older, because as you get older, you skip over detail. It’s almost self-imposed, this forgetting. I feel myself slowing down, and in a panic of thinking I have to cover more ground, I start speeding up, zooming past stuff. Whereas – this is important – the trick is actually to slow down more, to stop moving as fast, and pay attention more, and remember what it is you see, regardless of whether it is what you are supposed to see, or what you think you are supposed to be remembering.
Slow down and focus on the details of the world around you. What you observe will not only inspire your creativity, but become part of it. I’ll complete my novel and self-publish it, even if it doesn’t sell a single copy (in fairness, I’ll buy at least one!). I’ll get some satisfaction from completing the project. We all have a similar choice to make: Give time and energy to completing our creative works, knowing we may never change the world, or give up and live with the regret of having never tried. I don’t want to live with that regret. Do you?