“What advice would you give to a budding author?”
I was recently asked this question in an interview with Vicki Psarias from the site Honest Mum. I loved reflecting on it, and I think the ideas I shared are relevant to all of us creating anything. Here are my three pieces of advice:
1. Remember that feedback never tells you ANYTHING about your abilities.
It only gives you information about the people giving the feedback – about their preferences, priorities and sensibilities. You can take feedback seriously, but not as a verdict on your talent, only as insight into how key people in your field think about the work at hand, and what they are looking for. It’s not personal, it’s not moral. It’s emotionally neutral information about your stakeholders – that’s it.
2. Ultimately, there is no one whom your book (or other creative endeavor) will matter to more than you.
There’s a paradox here because of course we often create to serve a particular population we care about, to make a difference for a certain group in need. We want our work to matter to them, and our work will only be successful – in external terms – if it does truly serve an audience.
All that’s true. But it’s also true that at a deeper level than that, we create what we create because of our soul’s questions, our dilemmas, the topics we are mysteriously drawn to in our hearts. Exploring those questions through the creative process will matter more to the artist’s personal development than the work will ever matter to anyone in her audience.
The creative process is designed to evolve the creator. That is what it is for.
As a fabulous secondary benefit, when it does that, it also sometimes enriches the world.
Because that’s the case, there is nothing more important in writing than being endlessly honest with yourself, true to your questions, at your own edges, faithful to your own muse. Because in the end, honey, no matter who it reaches, your creative work is for the evolution of your soul.
And all the struggles that happen along the way in the creative process – the difficult conversations with a vendor or customer or publisher, the crises of confidence, the creative blocks, the conflicts with other people involved, the logistical or technical or financial problems?
Those are not distractions from the “real” work, as they can seem to be. They are a big part of the real work, because the real work is the development of you. Those messy situations are the perfectly designed lessons for you to find your voice, speak your truth, set a boundary, let go of a defense, act differently – whatever is called for in your personal development.
We have our aspirations about the difference we’d like our work to make to others. That’s a hope, a possibility, a mission. But I know for sure that how you show up as you do your creative process, what you do, how you change? That for sure impacts the world as you do it. So pay attention to that part, too.
3. Great creations come from the combination of two opposite things:
1) practicing your craft, daily or close to daily and
2) stepping away from your craft and living your life.
This is such a dynamic combination. We need the consistent writing (or time doing our craft, whatever it is) to practice, to get nimble with our medium, and to create enough that we become less attached to any one thing we produce – able to discard, cut, and edit freely.
Yet what we do as we practice is only part of the equation. The emotion, insight and truth-telling that makes creative work come alive is born of what happens in our lives – the difficult conversation we choose to have, that emotional risk we take with a loved one, the piece of art we truly savored and took in from another artist, and perhaps most of all, the times we slowed down, for fifteen minutes or an hour, to stroll or daydream or sit in the bath, allowing our original thinking on a topic to come to us.
We have to live conscious lives to have material to write about, and we have to practice our craft regularly to be able to express that material well.
So that’s my three:
1. Remember that feedback doesn’t tell you about your talent or anything else about you. It tells you about the people giving the feedback.
2. Remember that ultimately your creative work will matter most to you, so create with honesty and fidelity to your own callings and your own questions.
3. Practice your craft daily, or close to it, and step away from your craft and live your life.
And, you can read the rest of my interview with Vicki of Honest Mum here.
Love to you,
photo credit: Markus Spiske