society pretends that it values creativity. And it does—successful
creativity, creativity that can be monetized, creativity everyone
likes and approves of, creativity that doesn’t ruffle feathers,
non-political creativity, creativity that is at the end of a long
road of creative failure. The problem is that society doesn’t
realize that all that failure is a necessary part of creativity, and
only rewarding the end of the journey means that a lot of people are
going to give up before they find success. I think this is truly
tragic. It’s bad for our society and bad for us individually as
we need to do is celebrate failure more often. I know that sounds
crazy. If we reward failure instead of success, what’s going to
happen? We’ll get people failing more and who needs that? Well,
we all do. We need to be praised for our attempts, not our successes.
Because we don’t have control over success. We don’t have
control over other people’s opinions of our work. We can only
control how often we try, and if we’re not rewarded for that in
some way, we’re going to stop trying.
remember when your kids were little and they brought home a drawing
they’d made and you praised them for it, not because you were
lying but because you truly loved how expressive it was and how they
had put their whole selves into it? You loved that drawing because it
was a truly impressive product when you understood how little
training they’d been given. You loved it because they knew very
well that your face isn’t purple but they said that sometimes
it looked purple in the moonlight and you saw how creative that was.
Well, we need to do that for artists of all kinds.
what I’m going to hear is that there are lots of cretive types
out there who are just bad and that there’s no point in
encouraging them because they’re never going to be van Gogh or
Picasso or Shakespeare. They’re never going to produce anything
that’s truly amazing, that’s valuable enough to end up in
museums or be auctioned for millions of dollars. They’re still
producing kid-level painting as adults and that’s just
embarrassing. Why should we be supporting that?
what I have to say: You have no idea if what someone is doing now is
going to lead to great work. Even art critics don’t know that.
They didn’t like van Gogh or Picasso when they were figuring
out their style. They laughed at them and thought what they were
doing was juvenile and that it looked like crap. Because they didn’t
follow the rules and they didn’t look like successes.
truth is, we’re all afraid. Writers, nonwriters, every kind of
creative person is afraid of doing their thing. They’re afraid
they aren’t good enough. They’re afraid someone will
criticize them. They’re afraid that they’ll be made fun
of. They’re afraid of someone hating their book. They’re
afraid that people will somehow be able to read into their most
vulnerable spots through a book and hurt them that way.
no way around this pain. It’s not going to go away by doing
some kind of therapy. If you’re waiting to stop being afraid,
you’re never going to write. And I personally think that would
be a terrible thing because this world needs your story. Someone out
there is waiting to read what you have to say to give them the
courage to own their own experience. I promise you, that is true. But
it can only happen if you fight through the pain and get it down.
the things you’re afraid of are real. People are going to hate
what you do. You’re never going to feel good enough. People are
going to see the real, naked you through your work and they are going
to say the most abominable things.
you have to write anyway. You have to create anyway.
as afraid as you are. Every day I wake up afraid of what I have to do
that day to do the work I need to do, for myself and for others. And
that’s why I write these essays. You think I’m writing
them for the rest of you, but I’m not. I’m writing them
for me because I’m terrified and I need someone to tell me that
it’s OK to be afraid and to just keep writing anyway.
going to fail. You’re going to be laughed at. You’re
going to have to do a lot of fixing of a lot of things. It’s
going to be harder work than you can possibly imagine right now, full
of fear as you are.
you do it anyway. That’s what a writer does. That’s how
we create books. We stare down the fear and we write anyway.
so easy to learn caution when you’ve failed a few times. You
stand up on that cliff and think to yourself that you know what
happens when you fall. You know how long it takes for you to recover,
for the wounds to heal, for you to get back to the top again and be
ready to try to fly. And so you might be tempted to look for a
smaller fall, for a lesser chance at failure. You might look down and
see a cliff that isn’t so sheer or so high, where there aren’t
rocks below and where you can see the cushioning that will catch you
if you fall.
Don’t step down.
Don’t let your fear overcome your dreams.
Don’t go for the easy successes, because you may become used to not looking down from that height.
Don’t stop trying to fly.
know you are afraid of the pain again. I know you think it isn’t
worth it when you’ve failed so many times and you’re sure
you’re going to fail again. I know you think you don’t
even deserve to dream so big anymore.
Dream big. Always dream big. Always take the big chances. Always.
you feel like you've given everything you have to give, give just one
more time. You have more inside of you than you ever imagined.
you feel like you've come to the end of the road, take one more step
you've been slapped down just one time too many, stand up and stand
tall and demand more.
you want more and you've always wanted more and you're tired of
asking and working and begging, make something new and angry and
life is unfair and you're always on the receiving end, find someone
else in the same situation and try to laugh about it.
it's time to try something else, try something impossible. Aim big.
you feel alone, reach out for a hug. There are so many people who are
life feels useless and you feel worthless, take a breath and then
another one. It won't always be like this.
no one sees you, try seeing someone else and giving them what you
need to be given.
you've lost faith in yourself and your work, remember that others
haven't. They are cheering you on silently.
know a lot of writers are dealing with fear. And plenty of people who
want to be writers are dealing with fear so intense that they never
get to the part when they are writing. They’re too afraid to,
because writing is so powerful. And because they’re afraid to
let people see who they really are through their words. So they never
write them down. They never reveal themselves truly. And I think
that’s very sad. I’d like to see more people who are able
to work around their fear and get their words down.
Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison