A Swift Kick Is Sometimes Needed (Or Two, or Three)
Lately, I’ve been in a slump. A bad one. As artists, we all go through it. It’s inevitable. It’s not fun –– in fact, if we’re being real here, it sucks –– but it happens. For me, I got comfortable in it. I stopped writing. I started making excuses. I told myself I’d start on that next draft tomorrow, or next week, or at the start of the month. The days piled up and before I knew it, I hadn’t written anything in months. Months! It wasn’t like me. I’ve never been the most disciplined writer, honestly, but I still tried to live by the advice I was given in college –– write every day. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a line or a scene or the start of a story you’ll never finish –– just write. I stopped doing that. I let myself get comfortable. I moped about it, sure, but I didn’t do anything to change it, either. It was easier not to.
I’m surrounded by talented people. Here in Atlanta, I’m lucky enough to have a good support network full of people who care about what I’m working on and where I’m going, who want to build each other up and see each other succeed. I dodged enough questions from them; I made enough excuses. Usually, the same ones I was making to myself. Tomorrow, next week, next month. It was good enough, too, until one day, it wasn’t. I saw one of my mentors and, in the way only she can say, she told me she’d given me enough of a break, that she’d let me slide by for too long. I knew then that there weren’t going to be any excuses. It was time for me to get back into it.
It’d be nice if writing was one of those things we could do only when we feel like it. For me, at least. But if that were the case, I’d probably never get anything done. Like any art form, it’s something you have to work toward. Sometimes, that sucks, too. I know there are days where I sit in front of the computer and it’s easier to scroll through Facebook or find another quiz on Buzzfeed about designing a dream living room to find out what kind of pizza topping I am. I’m trying to break those habits. It’s slow going, most of the time, but it’s something I have to do. I’m learning that. I’m trying to break past comfortability. A lot of the time, it’s scary. I’m afraid of rejection, like a lot of us are. I’m afraid of failure. But there’s a sort of triumph, too, in even writing a page. A bigger one when I write a full scene. Another when I’m hit with a new idea, something I want to explore. It doesn’t come all at once, but when it does, there’s something to be said about it. I don’t have to sit down and write the next great American play in one sitting. All I need to do is write.
I think that’s something we, as artists, also struggle with. At least I do. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own work. I want every draft to be solid. It’s not that I don’t want the critique –– I take it a lot better than I used to –– but that I want what I put out to matter. I want it to mean something, to be good. I get caught up in that a lot of the time, and it’s another thing I need to break myself of. If I get too preoccupied with making everything good, I’ll never give myself an actual chance to be. I need to trust myself, and it’s something I’m working toward, too. There’s a reason I do this, why I’ve made it this far, why I still feel the same passion I did back in school and even before that. Maybe I haven’t done all I can, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still have time. I’m young. I have to remind myself of that. I still have so much left to learn and discover about myself as a writer and the only way I’m going to do that is by –– well, writing.
So, I’m taking those words to heart. No more excuses. No more being comfortable. No more tomorrow, next week, next month. It has to start now.
Recently, I hung out with a couple of people who didn’t know I was a playwright. They were surprised when I told them, which hit me a little harder than I thought it would. But, the more we talked about it, I realized –– they were interested. They asked questions, they wanted to know. These people, who I hardly knew, wanted to know about me! About my work. It wasn’t a long conversation, sure, but it was validating. (And –– I’ll be honest here, again. I like having validation. I don’t know too many people who don’t, in some way, even if they don’t admit it.) It was another kick, like before, but one I needed.
I’m getting those a lot lately. Universe, I see you. I hear you. I’m going. Promise.
When Tramaine asked me to write this blog post, I asked her what she wanted to see. Words of encouragement, she said, and I wondered if I was in any sort of position to give people that sort of thing, especially when I’m still trying to figure things out myself. But maybe that’s what we need, sometimes. Someone who doesn’t have everything together, who understands, who can look us in the eye and say, I get it, I do. This artist thing sucks sometimes. You wanna give up, find something else. Get comfortable. Give yourself more excuses. Tomorrow, next week, next month.
The important thing is that you don’t. You push through it. It takes time. It’s not easy. Maybe you need a kick from a mentor, from a friend, from a stranger. It’ll happen. And when it does, you have to listen. Get uncomfortable instead. Tell yourself it sucks and then remind yourself of the ways it doesn’t, and then tell yourself again when you forget, however many times it takes until it sticks.
For the first time in months, I pulled out the whiteboard I use for brainstorming and planning and set it up in my living room again. It’s a reminder for myself, a sort of accountability. Maybe this will be that, too.
Either way –– keep going. (And yes, I’m telling myself this, too.)