First let me say that newspapers are wonderful, in theory. They are often full of interesting, pertinent, well-written articles. But I find them physically unwieldy, their texture gives me the willies and I hate how the ink comes of on my fingers. And magazines? Magazines are a guilty pleasure, sure, but really they just make me want things I can’t have.
Thinking about wanting things led me to wondering about the creative process, about giving versus getting (or trying to get)…and about joy.
We spend a lot of time trying to get things, in our society, and I think sometimes we apply that to the creative process. Being an actor was like that for me. I often found myself grasping, trying so hard to “get” a moment, “get” a role, searching for something outside of myself that would make it all work and bring the magic. I worked hard, but it was like throwing myself against a wall—magic was elusive, the results mixed and, in the end, there was so little joy.
And if you’re going to do something so damned hard, there had better be joy.
As a writer, I find my process very different. I give. It’s not about searching outside of myself, it’s not about grasping. It’s about finding something that interests me and then diving into it, giving myself over to it. I wanted to do that as an actor but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe writing is just the right medium for me, but now I’m starting to understand that if you really want to achieve something, you have to give, and you have to give everything. You have to wring yourself out and you have to do it daily. It’s exhausting, difficult and sometimes painful but it’s also how I’ve found magic, how I’ve finally found joy in my work.
I suspect this is the best way to achieve anything you really want, whether it’s writing a book, playing Hamlet, building a business, being a great parent, husband or wife—give yourself to it, give everything you have to it, and you will find a deeper level of satisfaction and success at the end of the day.
Which isn’t to say I’ve stopped wanting to play Ophelia, wanting a new wardrobe, better triceps, a flat stomach, more books, an LCD TV, a newer house, a treadmill for my dog, etc. I’m just happier while I’m wanting it.
What about you?