What is feeding my creative soul?
I’ve been asking myself this a lot recently. After a season of busyness, following a year and a half of general uncertainty, it’s especially hard to get back in touch with what truly nourishes the soul. This process is honestly terrifying; it’s easy enough to say you’ll start a new set of habits after xyz is done, but a lot harder to actually get down and start them.
It has been difficult, as a young adult choosing her path in life, to prioritize the things that feed my creative soul, the things that reconnect me with why I chose to become a writer in the first place. Not only do these habits often feel frivolous or childish; they are also, sometimes, just really inconvenient. But isn’t that always the struggle? The stuff that makes us the most ourselves doesn’t always bear immediate fruit. In a society that is addicted to immediate fruit, faithfully practicing, faithfully feeding your creative soul can seem unproductive. (And we all know that being unproductive is just the worst thing a human can be.)
For the remainder of the summer, I’m challenging myself to get in tune with my creative soul again: to do the things I know will make me a better writer, a more focused creative, a better person. Today, I want to talk about my first goal:
Write. A lot.
As a child and teen, I wrote everything down. I journaled, mused, marked down funny conversations, without censoring myself. I was an incredibly prolific writer. Of course, it wasn’t very good stuff, but now as an adult, I care so much about making good stuff that I shy away from making anything at all. I’m reminding myself that, as they say, shitty art is better than none at all. We have to learn to let ourselves play with our art.
I’ve found this to be true over the past year as I’ve learned the new medium of digital art. A year ago, the thought of putting a logo together or making digital graphics would have been impossible. When I first started practicing digital art (I use Procreate on my iPad), there were a lot of shitty pieces. I have so many pages of random scribbles as I tested out different brushes with different colors. But I kept at it. I learned each new skill one at a time, and soon I knew enough that I could really have fun with it. I built a new art form, skillset, and body of work I would have never had if I didn’t let myself even start.
By making shitty art, I discovered a love for digital collage.
This summer, I’m trying to relearn this same skill in writing. Taking note of each thought, scrap of dialogue, or description that grabs my attention, and writing it out, doesn’t always feel like doing “real” writing work. Writing a poem I have no intention of ever sharing, or a conversation that doesn’t fit into any of my current big projects, seems unproductive, even procrastinatory. But the times I’ve done so and seen firsthand how these little scribbles have lain the groundwork for bigger projects, remind me that this really does work.
By letting ourselves play with our art in this way, we learn again how to do the thing for its own sake. We learn again how to separate the process from the potential returns.
This is a really challenging thing for me. This blog post in itself is part of my shitty art process: writing up some ideas and sharing them without layers of quality control is terrifying.
Yet I make myself hit Publish.