On a recent visit to the beach, I picked up a least a dozen pens, pencils, and markers that had washed up on shore. It’s interesting how one type of trash will be present in abundance on a given day. Sometimes I find toothbrushes and cosmetics. Other days, candy wrappers, yogurt containers, or cans of chewing tobacco are strewn up and down the coastline.
Writing implements are not something I usually find, but that day they were prevalent. Each time I spotted one in the sand, it felt like I was being sent a message, and I was prompted to reflect on why I haven’t been writing or drawing lately.
I created my Write the World blog after thinking about it for a very long time. I met my goal of posting once a week for several weeks, and then I quit. It was hard to keep up. I let negative self-talk and excuses get in my way. Since my last post on January 31st, I have thought about blogging almost every day. I have kept track of my ideas in a list of notes that I keep on my iPhone, but I haven’t allowed myself to take the risk of writing something to post.
I am also a doodler. I enjoy drawing weird abstract pictures of faces, flowers, and creatures. But I haven’t been doodling lately either. I am not sure when I last picked up my sketchbook and pen. I get nervous when I even think about it. What if I can’t think of anything interesting to draw?
It may sound clichéd, but I guess I am experiencing a creative block. My dad regrettably lived a lifetime in this state.
He was an architect who worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. He designed base housing and military structures—not a creative way for an architect to spend a career, but I think he was comfortable in his job. He was a shy man who didn’t want to stand out in any way.
When he was 16 or 17, he painted a few watercolors that were exceptional, but he quit painting in spite of his talent. 60 years later, he saw two of the works he had completed in his teens matted and displayed in our home. His only comment was “nice frames.” He couldn’t acknowledge the beauty of his paintings, and he was unable to accept our praise.
My father was incoherent the week before he died. He couldn’t say much, but he was able to utter one last sentence: “I am disappointed in…” I held my breath, thinking it was something I had done or hadn’t done “…I am disappointed in my creativity.”
I don’t want to find myself echoing my father’s final words in my old age. I don’t want to live my life regretting that I didn’t fully express myself. I don’t want to die disappointed in my own creativity.
I will follow the wise advice from Ann Patchett about forgiveness that I recently read in Explore.
“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this, because it is the key to making art and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe that, more than anything else, this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”
I too forgive myself. This is the best I could do for today. I didn’t write the blog post I wanted to write, but I wrote the one I am capable of writing.
It feels good to be forgiven.