I got my picture taken for the school paper yesterday so I guess that means they are going to publish the “Peace and Radicals” article I submitted (see the December 7 blog). It is a good feeling when something you have created turns out to be appreciated by someone other than yourself or your immediate circle of friends and family. As a writer (and photographer and musician and actor and artist at large), it is my job to create and explore beauty and truth and that gives me great joy. Sometimes, though, the pressure to be published or shown or get a paying gig or recognised in some way by the general public takes some of the pure passion out of my creativity. I had a very interesting conversation with a fellow writer this past summer in Mahone Bay.
We had both spent the better part of a year writing our first work of fiction and were entirely thrilled to find someone else who had gone through this intense creative process. We were both invigorated by the challenges of writing something of that length and totally investing ourselves in the story and its characters. But after a second look and some constructive criticism from trusted friends, each of us had discovered that while the process had been an incredible learning and growing opportunity as a writer, the book itself was not in any shape to be published. Neither of us regretted having done our projects, but at this point, we both wondered what to do with almost 100,000 words of toil, sweat, and tears on our computers. It is somewhat embarrassing when people keep asking you, "So, is your book done? When is it going to be published?" And the only true answer you can give is: "At this point, it is not good enough to be published and I am not sure if I should spend the better part of another year rewriting it or simply move on to the next project and chalk it up to experience." It sounds too much like failure.
As my friend and I walked along in silence and I pondered my questionable future as a thriving and self-supporting artist once again, a thought struck me. “Why does something have to be published to make it valid?“ I asked my friend. “That is a total unrealistic and unhealthy way of looking at things. Does every song have to be recorded to make it worth something, to make it meaningful? Does every piece of poetry have to be printed in order for someone to appreciate the beauty in the words? NO! That is just the way the world system makes us think - fame and reimbursement make things valid and that’s a lie.“ I asked my fellow writer why he had written his book and he said it was in honour of his friend. I asked him, “Is the story worth telling?“ He said, “Yes,” to which I replied, “Then it is worth reading, at least to me.“ I asked him to send me his book and I promised not to read it with a critical or editorial eye, but appreciate the story as a gift, a way of seeing something that only he could express. I got so excited about this new “validity” concept that I shared the idea with a few others and they immediately said they would also love to read something like that, just to appreciate the story.
Creativity is not owned by the publishing and recording and production companies who pretend to buy and sell it. It is found in the people who have let a spark ignite in their souls and added their hard work and ingenuity to it in order to make something unique and meaningful and beautiful and over time, increasingly more well-crafted. I believe I have many things to learn as a writer and artist, but I have ceased to make my goal that of being published. That is a dream far too small. I want to change the world by telling stories that no one else can, by presenting truth and beauty in interesting and unique, yet recognisable forms. I want to point my camera at things that no one else has thought to stop and look at. And I will tell my story and my vision and my dreams to those around me…one by one by one. This is worth my time. This is worth my effort. This is what a voice in the wilderness does.
“Prophets are those folk among us who dare to stop doing good. That is, they dare to be less busy, less consumed by the legitimate demands of the present day. Their peculiar asceticism is to stop the busyness, and in the stillness to listen. Only as the absorbing and distracting demands of the present are stilled will we hear the sounds of the future. This is a considerable risk. The good we are doing now not only fills our day but tells us who we are. In it we find our worth. Without it, who would we be? What if we quiet our hearts and then hear nothing? But the gift of the prophet is to seek silence, convinced that only then will we hear the subtle murmurs of God's Spirit. These sounds alone can tell us what time it is.”
James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead
The Gift of Prophecy, SPIRITUALITY TODAY
Winter 1989, Vol.41 No. 4, pp. 292-304.