After you read the blog post title this week, I’m sure many thought: what the hell is creative strength and how do you rely on it?
Well, let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I have a M.A in Creative Writing and it took so much damn work to get that degree. After three years of going to school all year long, and writing the first eight chapters of a novel, they awarded me my degree and I set off into the world to become a novelist.
My goal was to write every single day and finish my first novel, and for a while after graduation I did just that. I sat down each day to complete at minimum 1,000 words. Six months after graduation, I had a completed novel. So I started emailing agents, writing query letters and sending my baby out into the world.
Do you know where that novel is now?
Saved on my desktop, unread, unopened and unworked on for over eight months.
Why? Because I felt defeated after the first round of rejections letters came in and I practically wanted to crawl into a hole for the rest of my life, after the second round. I don’t talk about the third or fourth ones.
And you know what else? I haven’t shared that information with anyone before now.
Instead, I held my feelings in and started the ever so helpful game of negative self-talk. I told myself that, despite the fancy MA degree and the years of cultivating my writing practice and style, I must not be a real author. When people would ask about the book, I’d smile big and say, “it’s a work in progress”.
Only, that wasn’t the truth. In order to be a work in progress, you have to actually do some work.
Deep down, I knew that even as I’d smile and nod. I knew that I’d given up.
I stopped believing in my creative strength.
The strength that, for years, I worked on. This is the strength I drew from in order to craft new stories, learn more about poetry and push myself to keep doing the work. Even when it was hard, when I was tired of editing and felt like I couldn’t get a story just right, I maintained that strength.
Before I received my first formal rejection letter (well, email) I’d heard plenty of criticism of my work. In all my creative writing classes, we relied heavily on the writer’s workshop and each other for motivation and to push us to develop our skills. So how was this rejection any different? Why did it feel more personal? The answer is simple: because I let it be.
Instead of taking the experience and growing from it, I shut down. My daily writing practice started to disappear and I felt an enormous sense of relief when people stopped asking about that damn book.
Only, there was that fancy degree hanging on the wall serving as a constant reminder.
Then, one day very recently, as I was writing about cultivating creativity, I had a serious moment with myself. I started asking, why had I given up on my writing so easily? On the most frustrating and challenging days, I wouldn’t dream of giving up art, but I allowed myself to step away completely from creative writing.
I stared at that degree hanging on the wall.
I thought about all the moments I drew on my creative strength for art.
At each failed art show, all the gallery rejections and every single month I went without selling a single piece of art…I drew on my creative strength and energy. I reminded myself that, in any creative pursuit, you are the only one who can stop yourself from moving forward and growing.
The rejection letters weren’t stopping me from writing. I was. They hadn’t forced me to stop working on the novel. I did that on my own. And they weren’t the reason I was hiding the story from the world. I am.
But this week, I’m saying no more. I’m looking to my creative strength and saying yes.
Yes, I will write again, every single day.
Yes, I will continue to pursue my novelist dreams.
Yes, I will be willing to learn and grow from criticism, rejection and feedback.
I won’t hide anymore and I won’t let me hold me back.
So if you’re reading this blog post and thinking: that’s me. I’m someone who stopped believing in my creative strength, know you’re not alone. Even those of us with years of training and work struggle. I’ve been writing for months about creativity, even created and guided a writer’s challenge. I still fell victim to my own negativity.
But we can both get back to work.
We can both cultivate and pull from our creative strength.
This week, I’m going to be working on my strength by opening that document again and starting to rethink my novel. The goal? Share it no matter what. I will no longer limit myself to traditional publishing. I believe in myself and my abilities, but I also need to be willing to adjust and change.
And I hope my readers will stick with me in this journey, as well as share their own with me!
If you’ve read this whole post thank you, it is always both cathartic/scary to open myself up here, but I’m thankful for all the support that I get from each of you.
That is why this week I’m offering two free print downloads of my original art! Check them out here:
You can also download the quotes on writing shared in today’s post!
I hope they’ll serve as inspiration to you as we both work on cultivating creative strength. ❤️