Life imitates art; and art is hard

Today is the day before the end of my July Challenge.

For the last 30 days I have taken, on average, 2.5 hours out of each evening to try to dig into my mind and my soul and see if there’s something down there trying to come out. I have embraced the creative process like I never have before. I have taken a hobby of mine — writing — and made an ambitious discipline out of it, for a defined period of time. All while working full-time, planning for a 10-day backpacking trip, getting ready to move out of my apartment, and planning my wedding with my fiance.

I am exhausted. I can’t believe I made it. I didn’t expect that I would.

This creative endeavor has taught me a few things. Some unexpected things, to be sure.

1) Life mimics art

… and not the reverse. Oscar Wilde was right, I say.

I expected this month to play out as an expression of latent ideation already at work inside of me. To a degree, it was that. However, far more than that, it was an exploration of unexpected places, as though I’ve been climbing mountain passes and happening upon hidden valleys that were never on my map.

Each day I have labored to force words onto this page. I have struggled to get them to line up, to cooperate and to communicate something, with all the energy that I’ve had available. This struggle, ironically, has had much more of an effect on me, I think, than I have had an effect on any of you. I’ve discovered questions and reservations and burning passions in me that I didn’t expect. I’ve explored in directions that have been genuinely surprising to me. I’ve learned. I’ve been changed. Just a little bit.

So, far from this artwork imitating the internal folds of my mind … I believe this art has taken on an interesting life of its own, and the folds of my mind have flexed in response. I love it. I hope that any creator or artist gets to experience this. I hope anyone would take a week, a month, or a year, and commit to creating in a consistent way. You may discover that much more than your three-and-a-half good ideas come up in the process.

But, it’s not easy.

2) Pursuing a dream is hard work

I did this month of blogging in the first place because I want to be a writer. Well, actually I don’t know if I want to be writer, but I wanted to find out. People tell me that I should be. I am of course drawn to the fame, the recognition, and imagined success of it all. And sometimes, once in a while, I manage to paint an essay or a story that I really think is beautiful, and it makes me happy.

More than that, I am attracted to the freedom of self-employment. Yes, I understand that being one’s own boss can mean that you work twice as much as the average employee … but still, there is something beautiful in the independence, the choice of it, that makes it worth it. At least in my head, that’s true. So for me, this month was a test run, an experiment in what it might feel like to write full-time.

My conclusion is that it is effing hard.

Many, many nights this month, I have felt like I’m scraping the barrel. Dredging through wastes and sludge in the backwaters of my mind, wondering what I could possibly have within me that’s worth broadcasting to the world. Before this month, those moments would mean that I simply wouldn’t write. Before this month, I would conclude that the inspiration wasn’t there, and I was off the hook for the day, and go play ping pong or read a book.

But this month, I made a commitment. Somehow I had to push through this wall, each night, and create something. Say something. Anything at all. And that has been the real challenge this month. It has also been the real game-changer.

The great pain of transforming a hobby into a discipline is that sometimes you don’t feel like doing it. The only reason you continue going is that you’ve made a prior decision — you’ve decided that this momentary discomfort is less important than the ultimate payoff, the pursuit of the dream, the chase after greatness. Just as in any commitment, any relationship, any contract or covenant, you have (presumably) accepted the net sum of the cost/benefit equation, and determined that its yield is favorable.

In this case, I decided a month ago that I wanted to create, to dig, to experience the life of a writer, and see what it’s like. That purpose has superceded all these momentary frustrations, the writer’s block, the self-doubt and malaise in the midst of this attempt at coherent creativity.

It’s been worth it, but it’s been effing hard.

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I am deeply grateful for those of you that have joined me, followed along, offered your questions and disagreements, your approval and praise and co-celebration. I am grateful for you.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the foreseeable future. Cya then.

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