"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Creative Guilt

I have a lot of creative guilt. It sounds like this:

-Why haven't you written anything today?
-When was the last time you made something?
-How long has it been since your last blog post?
-You're adding another project to your list? What about all the unfinished ones?

And so on. Creative guilt doesn't just show up when I haven't made anything in a while. It rears its ugly head at the precise moment when I need it to shut up: when I'm about to start. That can be embarking on a new project or just trying to fit in thirty minutes of work. It's the voice in my head that says, "You haven't been able to keep this up in the past, so what makes this time any different?"

It's true that my track record for follow-through is pretty lousy. Even this summer, when I have the gift of free time, I haven't been able to consistently keep up a creative practice. And while, yes, I could really benefit from less daydreaming and more doing, the voice that makes me feel bad about myself and discourages me from getting back in the game is textbook creative guilt.

That first hint of failure - the first day you didn't write after a multi-day streak, the day your enthusiasm ran out, the day someone asked you a question you couldn't answer and it threw the whole project into question - is most often when creative guilt pounces. It's one thing to feel restless, to want to make something after a hiatus; it's another to feel like every setback is magnified because you can't seem to get your act together.

The guilt is a liar. I could agonize for days about how little I've accomplished, but would it help anything? Of course not. And what I have to remind myself, over and over again, is that past failures  have no bearing on my ability to do the work. It doesn't matter how many days it's been since I've written. What matters is that I write today. It doesn't matter how many projects I've left unfinished. What matters is that I finish this one.

My advice (that I'm still trying to follow) is this: Take a deep breath. Push the guilt monster out of your head. Begin.

**When you need a break, or an extra kick in the pants, check out the links below**
An Invocation for Beginnings
Chuck Close on Inspiration and Work Ethic (via Brainpickings)
Austin Kleon on Learning Creative Habits from his Son

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