I am very attached to the fruits of my creative labors. I want my blogposts to become viral. I want the book I write to hit bestseller lists. I have very specific ideas about the trajectory of my creative efforts and boy do I get irritated when my ideas don’t match up with reality. It’s tough being an artist y’all. My ego can get in the way and when that happens, I have to remind myself what it means to be an artist.
As I’ve written before, my role as an artist is to establish a link between the finite and infinite, the mundane and the transcendental. In terms of creativity, it means I’m working with something more than myself because I am an instrument for my higher power. I am here to be of service to others through the art I create.
Talk to any artist and they’ll tell you at some time or another it felt like they were channeling something, that something moved through them. Indeed, Elizabeth Gilbert has a mega-popular video on creativity saying exactly that. If that’s true, and I believe it is, it means I’m an instrument for my higher power. I’m the violin, not the violinist. From that perspective, I’m not in control of the music the violinist plays, nor am I in control of how well the music is received. Or in my case, how well the writing is received.
I don’t know why certain things are popular and others languish in obscurity, but also, I don’t know the mind of God. However, I’ve experienced enough synchronicity in my life to know I am a piece on God’s chessboard, that there is a greater intelligence at work. That means art too. I want to write a wildly popular book that lands me on the New York Times bestseller list, but maybe every book has its own purpose and trajectory, and sometimes that means only six people will read it.
Last year at this time I sent a romantic comedy novel to every literary agent I could find. When sending query letters didn’t work, I asked my sister to coach me on pitching to literary agents live. Because my pitches went so well, I thought for sure somebody would sign me. They didn’t.
After getting rejected by every single literary agent, I finally stopped and asked, “What was the purpose of this book?” I don’t think the romantic comedy will ever see the light of day because it’s not supposed to be published, at least not in its current form. That book served its purpose because it demonstrated I can write a full-length novel, something I didn’t think I was capable of, and it also taught me a lot. For instance, it showed me I don’t actually know what I’m doing when it comes to writing a novel, but I’d like to. I want to know how to structure a novel, what makes a scene work, what doesn’t, etc. Writing the romantic comedy helped me see I need to work on my craft. So I am. I enrolled in a UC Berkeley extension course called “Developing the Novel.”
It’s only when I remind myself not every book is meant to be a bestseller, that every thing I create has its own trajectory, that I feel at peace. Every book, every piece of art, has its own “life” to lead. What I’m creating does serve a purpose. It just may not be the one that I think initially.
I dream of a world where we realize we are not solely responsible for our creative successes or failures. A world where we recognize we are instruments for something greater than ourselves. A world where we take our egos out of the equation. A world where we understand every creative project has its own life to lead and we let creative pursuits be what they are.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.