By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 12, 2018
Metaphor for my early twenties: I am standing on a slick rock in the middle of a raging river, with the wind roaring in my ears. On either shore, a wall of flames. And so, I pick up a heavy rock from the river bed and toss it into the water ahead, where it makes a tiny island in the rushing flow of water and wind. I step forward onto this stone, balancing carefully, and pick up the stone I left behind. In this way, I rescue myself. Slowly, slowly, I move down-river, and out of danger. Soon, I come to a place where there are no flames and ravening wolves, but only a sweet green land, and I go ashore to make my home.
Having landed on solid ground after a dark and insane time in my life, I look back at that time and shudder, and wonder how I survived those years. Surely, luck and grace both had something to do with it I have always been lucky but my real saving grace was my writing. Remember those stones? They were not stones at all, but words furiously scribbled in sloppy notebooks, and they saved my life.
When I reflect upon the element of earth, this is what comes immediately to mind: The importance of allowing your creative work to be the foundation you stand upon. Inspiration is not just some flight of fancy. It is the air you breathe; the water you gulp down when you are thirsty; the bread that fills your belly. The process and products of your creative work will feed your soul, if you let them. They can fill your belly, too, providing an important source of income, and an influx of resources and contacts you wouldn't have access to otherwise. Staying sane, grounded, focused, and organized are paramount to living a long and happy creative life.
Most folks don't think of creativity as a natural foundation for a sane and well-rounded life. But, in fact, that's exactly what our creative work is. When budgets were recently cut in local schools, arts and music programs were the first items on the chopping block. A little research showed me that our district isn't alone in cutting funding for arts programs in the schools it's happening all over the country! This, I feel, is a short-sighted trend which I hope a more visionary government will rectify in the future. The arts are not only an essential part of any child's education; they are also an amazing cross-teaching tool that can support learning in every subject, and act as a bridge to help non-traditional learners succeed in school. Learning healthy creative habits and making choices that support your creative life and goals is the key to your growth and success as an artist or writer.
If things aren't right in the studio, they aren't right in my life. I still stumble, get lost, fall down, and screw up. But now, when things are wrong and I don't know how to fix them, I'm not stuck in the middle of a raging river with no escape in sight. I have the power to build a bridge, word by word. Through all these wonderings and wanderings, one thing has kept me sane my daily practice of creating writing and art. When I'm feeling creatively blocked, it's a sign that something is wrong in the greater arena of my life as a whole, or in the world itself.
When I first meet with people who are new to this path, they often want to hear about the glamorous side of the writing life the agents and publishers, the book tours, and of course the money. This always makes me laugh. They will give up soon and go on to the next thing, and make their millions an easier way. They'd rather talk about writing at cocktail parties than sit down and write a single page. I can't teach them anything. You can't be a writer unless you love to write and if you're in it for the money, get out now!
But if I meet someone who is waitressing at night so she can have her mornings free to write, or bar-tending to feed his writing habit, I do not laugh. I weep in recognition; I know them by sight, for these are members of my tribe. These are the true writers, the addicts who crave words like a drug, who cannot stop. Give me someone who writes just for the sheer joy of it; for the love of watching her words run out of the pen, and across the page, and I will show you a writer.
Here's what those cocktail-party writer wannabes don't want to know: this is no easy life, no gravy train. Sometimes it's easy and effortless, and you can ride the wave of your inspiration from chapter to chapter, piling up the pages. But when the Muse goes wandering, it's up to you to inspire yourself to find reasons beyond money and glamour to show up on the page and slog through another page. Most days, it feels like digging a ditch, or trench warfare, or some other form of manual labor much disdained by those in cocktail dresses and high heels. It's hard work, and it doesn't always pay well. You have to be strong, smart, disciplined, and resourceful to survive. You may have to adapt your champagne palate to a cheap-beer budget for a while.
My Inner Muse
Strong and mighty
The bedrock I dig my roots into.
Cocktail party chit-chat doesn't cut it in the killing fields of the page. You have to dig down deep, until your muscles strain and ache, and offer up your gleaming treasures to the world. In the end, this is all we have our stories, our insides, our deep dark secrets.
Next Muse: Air: An Ugly Duckling Soaring with Swans
©2009 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
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