Oh hey. It’s me.
Over here in the grubby old sweatshirt, rearranging note-cards on the floor of my office for the eleventy billionth time.
In case you’re wondering this is what my “creative process” looks like.
It’s Book Proposal Day over here, which means I basically look like a crazy person- crawling around on my office floor in a look (can we call it a look?) that can only be described as a cross between athleisure and straight-up pajamas, talking out loud to myself, typing furiously and then backspacing and deleting. Laughing because “Yes! There it is! How could I not have seen that chapter before?” and then crying because “No! The same chapter that felt brilliant 4 hours ago suddenly feels stupid and dumb and I may as well title it ‘Department of Redundancy Department’.”
If you were to walk into my office on a Book Proposal Day you’d likely wonder if I was simply being held here before being shipped off to a home for the infirm.
You see, this has been a long and twisty project for me.
I think I heard Emily Freeman once say that’s what we writers like to call things that we don’t feel confident about yet. We don’t say “I’m working on a book”, or “I’m working on a piece”. We say “I’m working on this project” because it deters people from asking us what our book is actually about, which any writer will tell you is the actual worst question in the world to answer.
It’s like, “Oh hey, yah! Have you got an HOUR? Because I’d love to tell you allllll about this thing that lights me up / drives me insane / keeps me awake at night / is giving me IBS and so many thoughts and feelings that I’m paralyzed!”
Summarizing it into a 15 second comprehensive nutshell is basically like torture. (Also it’s not really giving me IBS. That’s probably just all the Taco Bell.)
Whenever I used to hear the words “Creative Process” words I’d immediately disassociate from them. I never identified as “the creative type” (even though I secretly wanted to) and I assumed woo-woo words like Art and Creative Work were reserved for the special few. You know the ones. The singers, the choreographers, the poets, the painters. To me it seemed like they were an elite club, only to be observed from the outside.
Now I know better.
Now I know that if you’re a human person you’re creative, that your Art can look like literally anything, and that the “creative process” is just a fancy way of saying “the way you contribute to the world around you.”
But knowing this in my knower is one thing.
Doing it is another.
Once I started actually doing my creative work (and to be clear, it was all work I was already “doing” on some small level, I just started leaning in to it instead of disregarding it as unimportant or silly.) (But I digress…)
Once I started intentionally moving towards all those things that scare me *just enough* to thrill me in the doing, things like writing, podcasting, creating communities, encouraging women in their health & fitness, and yes, a book proposal too- I realized with a sudden rush of panic and delight that I’d somehow snuck into the Creatives Club. Sure, I might be a fringe member of the party, nervously hanging by the punch bowl and clearly trying too hard, but dangit, I was IN!
Except… I still wondered whether I truly belonged.
So often the moment we begin to recognize, honor, and pursue our talents or dreams is the exact same moment we begin to question ourselves.
“Who do I think I am?
“Am I a total fraud?”
“Is this selfish?’
“Does it even matter?”
“Have I lost my mind?”
“Did God really nudge me towards this or am I making it all up?”
“I don’t know if I can do this. Ohmygod, what if I can’t actually do this?”
I’m still new enough to the “creative process” to be uncomfortable with it, but familiar enough with it by now to know that these questions are just your basic Resistance.
Sometimes those wonky feelings of Resistance are there to teach us that it’s not the right time, or the right thing, or that we can do better work. But other times they’re simply there to teach us to overcome them.
I guess the trick is to know the difference.
Is it okay to admit that when it comes to my book proposal I’m still learning the difference? Is it okay that today my creative process looks like showing up to the work that still scares me and thrills me? There is no cabin in the woods. No perfect playlists and scented candles. No obedient timelines (I’ve been working at this friggin thing for almost 2 years now and it’s changed shape at least 27 times.) Just greasy hair, a refusal to give up OR to hurry up, 3 sections that are finally nailed down, and a couple that still look like I just threw note-cards up in the air confetti-style and let them decide where to land.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned my sanity, my ability, my talent, my merit, and even my idea itself. I CAN tell you that nothing has made me feel more foolish & ill-equipped while simultaneously making me feel awake & alive than doing this work. Except, maybe motherhood. (Can I get an amen, moms?)
I’m still learning to sit in the tension of the creative process instead of struggle against it.
I’m still learning to wait for my art to reveal itself and to trust the gift in it for others in the meantime.
I’m still learning to take myself seriously but not too seriously.
To follow the love but show up and do the work.
I’m still learning that the only way over is through. By rolling up my sleeves and slogging through shitty first draft after shitty second draft, after, well… now I’m just being a cussmouth, but you get the idea.
I think the very thing that makes our creative work so hard, it’s uniqueness, is the very reason why we shouldn’t give up on it.
My art is my art. Your art is your art.
You can’t do mine for me and I can’t do yours for you.
Yet the world waits, desperately needing all of it.
I don’t know if my book will ever be a tangible thing in someone’s hands, but for right now it’s a thing in my heart so I’m just going to keep doing the next right thing and then the next until I find out either way. A bit of encouragement though? I do feel like every time I circle back around this thing I’m getting closer. The ideas and outline that were so ambiguous and elusive 2 years ago feels so much clearer and closer now. That’s the funny thing about closing in on the end of of a “project”. It all feels simultaneously closer and further away than ever before.
So cheers to the Creative Process, friends, wherever you find yourself in it today. To sharing the highlight reel AND the real reel. And to holding it all loosely.
Now pass the beer.
*this post was written from my computer and my heart*