You Are Not
I’ve been reading a book called Real: The Inside-Out Guide to Being Yourself by Clare Diamond. In Part One, Diamond deconstructs “self” by telling us all the things we are not. We are not our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or even our past. It’s quite the liberating feeling to realize all the things you think you are, are just that. Thoughts. Momentary, transient thoughts. So, what if we applied that concept to our perceptions of ourselves as artists? What would that look like? Let’s try it through the lens of writing, understanding you can substitute your art or career for the word “writing”:
You Are Not Your Output: It doesn’t matter if you publish one book or twenty. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you publish a book or blog or article at all. Maybe you fill journal after journal but never show your work to anyone. You are still a writer. The writing was for you. It was for your soul’s journey. It was a tool to help you better navigate this life and learn more about yourself. This is not a competition. You could write 100 books and probably only one or two would stand the test of time. You could write only one book and change the world. You can force yourself to write every day just so you can call yourself a “real writer,” but most of your output probably won’t be your best work because it was an exercise in discipline, not a calling from your muse.
You Are Not Your Awards: We all know those writers who’ve racked up dozens of awards. After the first two or three, they often don’t show up at every awards ceremony anymore. Awards are great, but they’re subjective. It all depends on who is judging. Swap out those judges, and the results might be very different. Awards can help sell books, or not. I know award-winning authors who had trouble selling their next books because their first books didn’t earn out well. Awards are good for the ego, but as all things ego-driven, that elation is fleeting. Then we start wondering what other awards we might win, or whether our next book will also win, or we becoming envious when other deserving authors “steal” the award we thought we should have won. The real reward of writing is writing. Typing the words “the end” at the completion of a manuscript feels every bit as good as delivering an acceptance speech.
You Are Not Your Income: Most professional writers make very little money off their sales when compared with other products and professions. There’s the 5% who achieve star status and sell movie and merchandise rights, but they are few and far between and often don’t see that kind of success until their third or fourth book. I know authors who make good money off their royalties and still find plenty of things to justifiably complain about in our industry. And I know authors who make very little, work really hard, and relish every single sale as a personal success. Write because it brings you joy, because it adds a thing of beauty to our world, because your story might change one person for the better (even if that person is you). And if you hit the motherlode, great! That money you’ve made will move through the universe and do some good for others. If not, you are still worthy.
You Are Not Your Identity: There are many facets to your identity. You are a spouse or a parent or a child. You’re a good friend, a volunteer, a full-time worker. You’re a fitness lover or a couch potato. You’re many, many things, and artist is one of them. It’s not all of you, it might not even be the best of you, no matter how good you are. It’s who you are until you’re not. Many writers, for example, never retire. Some do gladly. Many love writing above most things, others start to love something else more. Many writers only write, others also sing or paint or act. Are they “a writer” or “a painter”? They are both, and more. Write for as long as you love it, as long as it calls to you, but don’t worry if something else calls to you louder for a while, or forever. We are shifting, changing, growing human beings. That’s our journey on earth. Nothing ties us down, not even our passions.
You Are a Gift: You’re here to make a difference, to be your unique self, to serve others, to discover your true and changing being. You are the gift. Your art, whatever it is, is a gift to help you. Be thankful for it, relish it, love it, but don’t let it define you. Stay creative, stay curious, stay open to all the gifts that may come your way.
To find more inspiring posts like this one, please visit the blog — “Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life.”