Creatively Thinking: The struggle of claiming the title “writer”

Writing a book is weird and hard. I know..not hard like farming or construction or being a doctor or a police officer. I don’t mean that, of course. I mean, it’s mentally draining and it’s full of a lot of self-doubts, even if you’re just doing it mainly for fun like I am.

I am at the tail end of the first draft of ‘A New Beginning‘ and it is kicking my brain to the curb. I stare into space, trying to work out an issue I’m having with it or writing a scene in my head while I’m cooking dinner or a kid wants to show me something. It’s a bit like being stuck in a self-made prison and even when you try to escape it, your muse or whatever it is comes back and whispers “Hey! I have another idea! Let’s go write!” That is all fun and aggravating at the same time. Why won’t my creative muse pick a different time to try to inspire me.

I could completely relate to the author in Stranger Than Fiction, which we watched this week because I saw me in her tortured behavior as she tried to finish her book, without the extra alcohol and cigarettes. Writers don’t just write because they like it or they want others to read it.

Stranger Than Fiction

They write because they have to, because if they don’t it will gnaw at their insides until they are raw and aching for release or numb and depressed, begging to be put out of their misery. It’s like a painter or a photographer or anyone who creates in some way.

They have to create or their spirit wilts from the lack of artistic, creative stimulation. When you are a creative person, you can only wash so many dishes, cook so many meals, sweep so many floors, milk so many cows, assemble so many parts for cars or machines, before your spirit screams at you to breathe life into it again.

You have to do all those mundane things of life, of course, and sometimes you don’t mind doing them, but sometimes you need to do something creative as well.

I made my living as a writer for 14 years or so, but never really called myself a writer. That’s weird, I know. I still don’t call myself a writer. I’m not really that good, I tell myself. Slapping a label on myself like “I’m a photographer” or “I’m a writer” feels weird. I can easily say “I’m a mom,” because I have the kids to prove it. I can say, “I’m a wife,” because I have the husband to prove it.

Art, though, is subjective. I can feel like a writer or a photographer or an artist but until someone says I am, I’m not, or at least that’s what I think some days.

Last week, sitting by the tub, waiting for my daughter to finish one of her epic-long baths, I rambled out loud my debate about enrolling my one and only book in Kindle Unlimited or not, as if a 5-year old cares.

“I like your job, Mama,” my daughter said.

“What job?” I asked, since I, and the state of Pennsylvania, think of myself as “unemployed.” It says so, right on our taxes: unemployed, which in the United States also seems to mean “uninteresting, unimportant and unworthy.”

“You’re writing job,” she said with a grin, spinning in the water. “You’re a writer.”

Oh.

My 5-year old thinks I’m a writer and, in the end, what my family thinks is all that matters anyhow.

Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

DSC_2617-Edit

DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

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