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Michelle Davies - The Journal Gazette
Just dance, write, sing, whatever!

Some Thoughts on Creative Work

Yesterday, my friend Joyce and I enjoyed lunch in our building's break room. Since we had about half an hour left in our lunch breaks, I pulled out my knitting and she brought out her current crochet project.

As we chatted and crafted, two or three co-workers happened to come in to use the vending machines or microwaves, and commented or asked about what we were doing.

One person had a reaction I've heard over and over. She said she wished she could do it, then went on to list the various ways it would go horribly wrong if she tried it. It would be the wrong size. The foot on her sock would be backwards. She would never finish it. She would lose count and it would all be a waste of time.

A few hours later, I met with a group of spinners and knitters at a coffee shop. In the course of the night, two or three of them talked about how their first attempts to learn didn't…work out. Needles and yarn have been thrown across rooms. Potential potholders have been useless victims of dropped stitches. Many, many curse words have been grumbled.

But, everyone in my group had either soldiered on with it or returned at a different time in their lives. Now, frustration is occasional, while success is the norm (or, you know, at least possible).

The woman and lunch's reaction seemed mysterious to me, until I put it into context of something that makes me afraid.

I work with professional writers every day. Most journalists will insist that they are simply stenographers of life, or, at best, journeymen who produce a product, not capital-W Writers.

I know they are wrong. Especially when I read emotionally powerful, well-written work like this, and this.

I'm terrified of writing. Just like that woman yesterday, I can list a dozen ways it will go horribly wrong. I'll never finish it. It will all be a waste of time. No one else will want to read it. If they do, they'll resent that I wasted their time.

I tell my photography students: You will talk yourself out of more photos of people than they will. Most photographers are naturally shy (I swear!), but if you're going to photograph other people, you have to train yourself out of it. You have to get used to walking up to strangers, talking to them, and asking them for a favor. The favor is the photograph. It is also the reward.

I need to take my own advice. Train out of my fear of writing. Ignore that little voice in my head that tells me it will never work. Or maybe answer it, with a different voice. One that says, "Why not?" Or, maybe, "So what?"

I believe, with all my heart, that creative work is always worth the effort. Even if you're not great at it. At the most, I'll waste my own time and the time of two or three people I can convince to read it. What will we have missed? Half an hour of television? That seems like a fair trade to me.

Slay the little naysaying voice. Knit, spin, paint, draw, write, garden. Whatever creative work makes your heart sing, try to do a little every day.