Every day, I think about writing—yet I haven’t felt quite ready to call myself a writer.
I thought I needed a beautifully poetic surname like Hemingway, or a job title like Professor of Literature, or to have published at least one novel that’s graced the shelf of an actual book shop, and not my Year 12 English assignment that graces the entry table at mum’s house.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
A recent Elephant Journal post announcing the new “post instantly” function to the website suggested this. I saw others comment similar thoughts—“Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t think I can.”
In high school, our homeroom teacher asked us what we wanted to do with our lives when we grew up. I wrote, “To instill passion in others.” I didn’t know what that meant—I still don’t—but I knew it would be through writing. Yet I still put writing off, sticking to my day job, some half written pieces, and a blog I started purely to have a place to write, but have neglected for the last few years.
Putting off something creative that we feel is part of who we are can leave us feeling hugely disconnected from ourselves, like a calling that’s going unheeded.
Brene Brown says that unused creativity doesn’t just sit untapped, it lives within us until it’s expressed, or it turns into negative emotions. Unused creativity can become something that doesn’t just affect us, but also our relationships and our ability to give back to the world.
So what stops us from sharing our stories and thinking we’re enough to call ourselves writers, or artists of any kind? And how can we overcome this?
The quote below has been the single most important piece of information I’ve read recently—and it has pushed me back into creative writing:
“The making of art is no different than prayer.” ~ Rainn Wilson
In a Supersoul podcast with Oprah Winfrey, actor Rainn Wilson goes on to say that there is no difference between lifting a paintbrush to canvas and bowing our head in prayer.
In other words, there’s no difference between being creative and being spiritual.
The arts and creating brought Rainn a sense of purpose and passion in life—a way to be of benefit to others. If our own art and creativity is linked to our spirituality, it explains why we can get that “in flow” feeling during it.
I bet most of us can think of a time when we were making art of some type (writing, drawing, creating a strikingly lifelike bitmoji) and felt fully present and connected to something bigger than ourselves, or a bit otherworldly even.
This realisation can be freeing, as it makes it a little easier to let go of the tendency for perfectionism and comparison in writing and other art forms.
Sharing our art with actual people and not just plants can be scary. What if they don’t like it? What if we didn’t say all we wanted to say in the eloquent, magical, perfectly structured way it sounded in our head at 3 a.m.?
Our writing doesn’t have to be perfect or live up to the standards of Hemingway. In fact, it doesn’t have to be like Hemingway at all.
If creating art is a spiritual practice, it gives us permission to allow for whatever comes up.
This isn’t to say that writing or creating is always an enlightening experience. Most of the time it’s really hard to be in this head space, but from what I hear, that’s normal, and the best thing to do is to just keep creating and enjoy the moments when “flow” sneaks up.
Maybe it’s okay that sometimes it comes easier, and other times it takes more effort.
Maybe it’s okay that many pieces will stay half written on a laptop, or the notes section on a phone, still contributing to a spiritual practice and cultivating an authentic voice.
Maybe what can sometimes feel like a bit of wasted time on the side is actually connected to our calling.
Across different religions or spiritual practices, there is often a call to prayer. Just like in life, we can feel a call to create. A need to write or sing or act. To draw or paint or perform. To play with numbers or sculpt or build.
Whatever it is, we all have a need to create our own art—our personal prayer which is speaking to the world.
And just like prayer is a regular spiritual practice, so too is art. If we make time for it regularly, working it in to a weekly or even daily routine, we can move closer to our own calling.
To share our art with others can be both an exhilarating and vulnerable experience.
Yet maybe, just maybe, it can also be of benefit.