Pearls from artists* # 233February 1, 2017
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
These words are true for most artists, not only writers.
There is the gift, of course, which is inseparable from – though not the same as – a need, a hunger for expression. It is possible to have the gift without the need. It is possible to have the need without the gift. The former can lead to a happy and contented life. I have seen promising young writers discard their gift, shrugging it off like a wrap on a warm summer evening. They don’t care. They don’t want or need it. The other, however, is a painful situation: the hunger for self-expression without the gift – that ineffable thing you can’t teach, or buy, or will into being. This story often ends in resentment and unfulfillment. Then there is endurability – Ted Solotaroff’s word – the ability to withstand the years in the cold, the solitary life, the affronts and indignities, the painful rejections that never end. The gift and the hunger are nothing without that endurability. But up there with the gift, the hunger, and endurance is another trait, without which the writer’s life can’t possibly work.
The writing life is full of risk. There is the creative risk – the willingness to fall flat on our face again and again – but there is also practical risk. As in, it may not work out. We don’t get brownie points for trying really hard. When we set our hopes on this life, we are staking our future on the contents of our own minds. On our ability to create and continue to create. We have nothing but this. No 401(k), no pension plan, often no IRA, no plans – God knows – for retirement. We have to accept living with profound uncertainty.
Dani Shapiro in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
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