I went to my first class in "The Art of Storytelling" tonight. I was nearly in tears when I was leaving the apartment. Though I sit at my computer and type things most of the day, I somehow still have a hard time seeing myself as a legitimate writer. Andy is amazing about this. He is constantly encouraging me and telling me over and over again that God has given me a gift. I know he's talking about the writing, but I am thinking, "I know. My gift is insinuating that I have some other gift."
Anyway, I get to this class tonight and it's as I thought- lots of young people, lots of Toms, lots of beards and skinny jeans. "Artsy" types. I am in head to toe J.Crew. Not J.Crew from this season- J.Crew from ten years ago, because I can't afford new clothes, as I am a writer and cannot afford anything. This should make me feel more legitimate about my identity as "artist" but I just feel like a washed out sorority girl, though I was never in a sorority at all.
I was comforted and challenged when I was handed a copy of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years after signing up and writing my name on a sticky name-tag. Comforted because I love Donald Miller and challenged because I know that people more artsy and creative than me love Donald Miller more than me and have probably read this particular book, and I have only read Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What. No sooner had I thought this than I sat at my assigned table, and the guy sitting next to me- in sweater vest and thick artsy glasses- leans over and introduces himself. Trying to be friendly, and maybe just a tiny bit smug, I ask, "Have you read Donald Miller?" "I've read this book about ten times," my neighbor says. "I kind of stalk Don. I've seen him speak all over the country."
"Don" As if I'm not already intimidated enough, the guy sitting next to me is calling one of my favorite authors "Don" like they are best of friends. I decided not to speak anymore to anyone. Only, that is not a possibility because I'm in a room full of creative people here to learn how to be more creative, and so, of course, we are given a creative assignment in the first five minutes of class.
Assignment: if you could be a super hero, what powers would you have? what would your name be? draw your costume.
Crayons were strewn across our round table and everyone started scribbling away. Because I am not actually creative, but just recount what I have seen and heard elsewhere, I drew a picture of an outfit I saw on a four year old one day at Zilker Park. A tu-tu with horizontal striped gray and white tights, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes. I drew this because when I saw that little girl, I thought to myself, "I'd wear that tu-tu and tights if I could get away with it." And I figure that a superhero can wear whatever she wants, since people are going to think she's super-cool instead of super-immature. Really, I just like tu-tus. My super power was also completely unoriginal. I'd like to be like Dr. Lightman on "Lie to Me." Andy and I have gotten into watching this show on Netflix and I'm completely convinced that there is nothing cooler than being able to discern people's true feelings from their body language. So that's my superhero- Tim Roth in a tu-tu. Other people were things like light beams and empathy spreaders. One girl said her magic power was to infuse color into the world. She was making a stand against beige- very convicting stuff, you know. I have never felt less original.
At one point in class, I thought I finally had something worth sharing when our instructor asked us to share with our group an experience we'd had that just took our breath away and made us revel in God's creativity. I thought, "I've got this one!" and told my story about the time I got to ride camels in Mongolia when a thunder storm was rolling in, and it was so incredibly beautiful, I thought I was hallucinating the whole thing. Within minutes, another girl told about how she swam with sea turtles as the sun rose on the Mediterranean when she was in Turkey. Another told about her incredible adventures in Kurdistan this past summer making a documentary film, and another about the Egyptian sunset after a day of pyramids and sphinxes. Really? Why did I set myself up for that? I should have held to my earlier conviction to not say anything after "Don's" stalker intimidated me so much that the fun sized skittles I was eating started melting in my sweaty palms.
But, here's the thing- as illegitimate as I feel most of the time as an "artist", this could be one of the truest things about my life, and it was written in the notebook we "artsy" folk were given tonight.
Repetition is key. If you aren't making mistakes in your art... you aren't trying new things. You are falling victim to your fear & approval of man and not pushing yourself creatively.
As corny as it sounds, I do realize that being an artist does not mean having the right vintage outfit (though I'm pretty sure that's part of it, and I will get something cool from a thrift store one of these days) or even traveling to foreign places and taking mental pictures that you can one-up people with. Being an artist is when you have to do what you do because, daggone it, you just can't stop yourself. Even when you're in ten year old J.Crew and everyone has a better story, and more creative project than yours. You're a creator because God created you to be a creator. And you can't argue with the Boss.
It's funny to me that, while I know deep down that I am a writer, I have the hardest time seeing myself that way. Probably because I don't think that others see me that way. I know people get tired of words and tired of hearing my dribble. But, the thing is, I never tire of writing it. And I guess that's what is real. I don't write it so other people can read it, though I want them to and I want them to like it and love God more because of it. I write because I have to. Because I was made to.
It's hard to be a writer. Hard to be creative, disciplined, confident and humble. Hard to not be completely terrified all of the time that you will be rejected and ignored. But- and this kicked me in my J.Crew corduroys tonight- being "creative" is a part of our identity- because we were created in the image of the ultimate Creator. I know that people sometimes won't see that. They won't care. They won't appreciate it. But to not embrace that, to not accept that I am a pot and He is the Potter, is really living a lie.
So, God, help me please. I am a writer. Let me be one in truth, word, and deed.