Being a writer (or artist? am I allowed to call myself that?—this is the perpetual question) is one of the most wonderful, exhilarating, and slightly devastating things ever.
When I decided to dedicate a lot of my life to writing, I knew it would be hard, but as with many things in life, of course, I didn’t know it would be this hard. Note to self, it’s always going to be about three times harder than you imagine. But that’s honestly okay and good, because maybeI wouldn’t have hopped on this creative train if I knew it’d be this nauseating at times. The views are still worth every puke-fest. I feel fully alive and human here, spiritually, emotionally, physically, all the ”-ally’s.”
Still, I’ve been overwhelmed in the past couple years by all questions and frustrations when it comes to art. The lack of money and “real jobs.” The loneliness. The daily self-doubt, I cover this with fake-it-til-you-make-it confidence. The vulnerability hangovers from putting your heart out on the line over and over. The need for affirmation. The persistent thought that “you should just do something that actually makes a difference.” (whatever that means?) The wonderings if you’re spending your time so selfishly because you’re doing something that brings you life, or if you’re“wasting your potential.” (Yes, readers of my book, I’m better than I was four years ago, and I know that we cannot waste our potential when we are doing authentic, gospel-fueled work, but I still find myself questioning it. I’m still not over this one.)
I know the answers to these questions, but the answers don’t feel loud enough when I’m in my head, alone in the work. The questions are screaming, demanding that I bend the knee to an art-less, mediocre life again.
It’s been especially hard lately. I’ve avoided these questions, avoided my own art, because the burden of passion, authenticity, beauty, and consistency just seem too heavy at times. I vacuum and do the third load of laundry instead of head to my word docs. I find another volunteer opportunity instead of pulling out my journal. I bake cookies and call it“creative” (Baking can be creative, but let’s be real—I’m using a box mix people), so that I don’t have to face all my questions when I show up to the canvas.
How do you make art alone? (I’m learning you don’t.)
Why should I create literally anything—books, paintings, poems—when there are a thousand other people doing it (and better than I am)out there? (Our generation is so loud. I don’t want to add to the chaos or the noise.)
What is the point? Was I even meant to do this anyway? Did I mishear, misunderstand Him, when I felt the pushing so many years back to be a writer? (My hunch is not, but I also don’t know what I’m doing right now.)
In these questions and a thousand others, I have heard theSpirit whisper to me, here and there and again, localize.
Weird word, right?
But I couldn’t shake it. He just kept whispering: get local.Go to coffee with other artists. Stop trying to find your art community on the internet only. Find someone near you.
I came to terms with it, and tonight I went to InSpero, a local creatives connect that’s faith-based—and imagine this!—He was right.
I exchanged numbers and contacts with a few creatives, and I think I’ve found a painting buddy and a new-found belief that there is something about flesh-and-blood community (artistic or otherwise) that the internet will never replace.
We are an embodied people—and art is an embodied experience, so of course it makes sense that we need other artists along this journey with us in an embodied way.
So artists, writers, poets, journalists, authors, painters‚gardeners, sculptors, photographers—whoever you are out there—keep showing up to this online space and giving us your art. I want to see your art on here. I want to comment and cheer you on and I need to see your work on here. It is good for my soul. I will keep up the work of posting my work here. It is good for me to do this.
But also—go out and find other flesh-and-blood artists in your neighborhood, your town, your city, your state. Sign up for a close artists retreat. Start a creative connect in your own community, trail blaze it for the artists in your space, because we need each other. You can’t do this alone. You need flesh-and-blood people who see you in your messy, desperate, terribly unmotivated and uninspired state to pick you back up off the ground, look you in the eyes, and say you aren’t alone. They’ve been there. And this work matters.
This matters. I’m stepping into a new journey in my art…it’s time to localize.
Mary Madeline (MM) is a writer, poet, occasional podcaster, and wannabe painter. She enjoys introspective conversations about creative processes and the Creator. Married to Kyle, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama. For more of MM’s ponderings, find her at @mmschumpert on Instagram.