"You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are."
I just wrote the following comment in response to a Robert Genn letter about an artist who had lost her source of creativity, that inner something that made her produce art that mattered:
I am a writer who is still in the process of feeling emptied out and unable to do more than squeeze inferior words from deep inside me where I search for something magical, some excitement that can again make me forget time while I write.
One day I just stopped trying. And something magical happened ... no words ... but I began creating folk art furniture from cast-offs that wouldn't mind acting as canvases as this non-artist gave them new bright life. I continue to be happy doing this and the hours fly by as I meditate and paint.
I have discovered a confidence I never had before. I know that I can always sand back mistakes and try again and so I am freer to explore possibilities. And I am climbing a learning curve that is gentle enough to allow me to stop and enjoy the view. The only writing I do now is on my blog. Maybe one day I will start "really writing again", but for now it is enough that I am exploring a whole new part of my creative self, and I no longer feel that self loathing that comes from being stuck producing inferior art in a field where I know I should be better. Painting allows me the freedom to fail because I am not a painter, just a writer gone stale.
I am more than a painter of happy furniture; more than a dog sitter; more than a blog poster; more than a mother and Oma; more than a teacher; more than a knitter, or a reader or watcher of films. We are all the sum of all our parts and each part enriches the others. But I must say, I do hope that one day I will again feel that I am a writer too.
When my writing was at its best I found myself living in the imaginary world I was creating far more than I was living in the one inhabited by my body. I drew on memory and my work was tinted by the experiences I was also living, but I lost the ability to have real conversations with real people. I became a little odd. I have a feeling that many fiction writers may not be very interesting people in real life. It is not easy to create a world when you are busy living in the real one.