Finding your creative self in the New Year

by Hugh Gilmore
Posted 1/6/22

Are you hoping to follow your personal star this year and not get pulled deeper into the muck of modern American culture? Are you hoping to live a more authentic life? Wanting to express yourself by …

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Finding your creative self in the New Year

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Are you hoping to follow your personal star this year and not get pulled deeper into the muck of modern American culture? Are you hoping to live a more authentic life? Wanting to express yourself by wood sculpting, or quilting, writing a novel, or starting a memoir? Perhaps you'd like to write songs? If you really want to, that's great, but it won't be easy. There's a lot of enemies of personhood out there.

Facebook, for example. And Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tik-Tok, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Showtime, and all the rest of the Life-Thieves. Their junk nuggets fill the feeding bowls they shove under our noses every day. Poor, lazy, old you – on your soft couch – up against a barbaric horde of professional twaddle vendors who get paid to keep you munching their "chewing gum for the eye."

Most American seated amusements amount to an elephants’ boneyard of received wisdom. The endless fun is a cotton candy diet for your brain and soul.

You only get one life. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. When do you intend to begin your creative life, start capturing in print or song or paint the things you've noticed about life on earth? Does the fact that you work all day, whether in or out of your home, mean you have to swoon onto the sofa every night?  

No gong is ever going to sound and no celestial finger is ever going to point and say, "You! Yes you! Get up and start being yourself, now. The time has come."

Instead, life slips by until it's all gone. Pick a date and start. If you pick a date and you mean it, even though it frightens you, you'll figure out how to start. 

Most people say, "I don't have time right now." They're waiting till there's more time in their busy schedules – not getting it that there will never be more time.  

How much time can you give your project?  An hour a day is probably good. Two may be better, but even a half-hour will do, as long as you stay consistent. Make your work be daily, for the same length of time. A page a day of a novel or memoir means you'll be done in a year.

On any given day you feel you have nothing to say, sing, or whittle, it doesn't matter. Go to your post at your appointed hour and sit there the whole time. If you're writing, for example, just tap one key over and over. You'll get bored and start typing words, or sentences. And a story, or memory, will come and you'll write it down. And you'll teach yourself to write that way. Read your writing back to yourself aloud (or record it and listen). Everything you do in your chair counts toward your time. 

Once you start, you'll have many temptations to quit. You'll have to face your own laziness and self-pity, your feelings of worthlessness, your negative energies and your own weariness after years of letting American commercial culture do your thinking for you. And the only way to undo that is to show up, every day, and stay the appointed time. Before long, the mental and spiritual muscles you were born with will redevelop. If you put in your time, it is its own reward.

On a more personal note, I want to say that in the year 2000, on my birthday, I made up my mind that I'd delayed long enough and I started to write nearly every day. My first novel, "Last Night on the Gorilla Trail," was written in the back of my bookshop. I went in two hours early each morning and hand-wrote the story in marbleized-cover school copybooks. Writing exactly 10 pages a day, I finished the first draft in six months. And then the work began. I never felt more alive.

Along the way I learned to recognize what I call "the enemies of writing." Leaking roofs and crying babies are obvious inclusions on that list, but the real enemies are more invisible and inhibiting. They dwell in our own hearts and minds as the true enemies of our artistic selves: self-doubt, self-criticism, faintheartedness, what's the use-ness.

A writer is a person who writes, an artist is a person who paints – or sculpts, or weaves or dances or sings until they've created something. Whatever your form of expression, there's no time like now to start expressing it. We have never lived in more terrible or more interesting times. There's no guarantee you'll get to Carnegie Hall, but so what? You'll be able to say, "I tried." A hungry soul can find much solace in saying that.

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