I'm an artist who works with clay. I've spent a lifetime telling my story in this way. Clay is my greatest teacher and consistently uncovers things in my unconscious that I see only after certain work has been created. After 30 years of experience I'm skilled at my medium or should I say I'm skilled at being the medium for clay because that's the way it really works. The clay leads me. I know how to follow. Often I think I am headed in a certain direction with my work, but after some time notice that where I have ended up is a different place completely.
Several years ago I discovered a new way of telling my story. I was asked to join a writing group. I had never written before except for occasional scribbles while traveling and I eagerly accepted. A new experience, why not try it. It didn't take me long to fall in love with words. Now I write because I learn so much from writing. Because of this new pleasure, I have joined a national organization that celebrates women's personal writing. This group is not as concerned about writing well, as much as it is with writing honestly. I was trying to explain this to a friend a few days ago when she asked, "Why write if you're not a good writer." My belly got hot with protective anger. I was stunned. Why do anything? No one starts out being "good" at something new. Does this mean we shouldn't take on new projects, hobbies or interests? Does it mean we should only do the things in which we excel?
I write for the joy writing brings me. I write for the fun of it. I write because every time I start it's truly a new beginning. I write for the focused practice. I write because my words so often run out ahead of me, then sneak around and surprise me from behind. I write because I learn about myself. I write because it's not something that's easy for me. In fact it's difficult and because I'm not skilled at it, it challenges me, stretching my mind and sporadically my patience. Sometimes it frustrates me beyond belief. In my moments of discouragement, I'm thankful for memory, which reminds me of the satisfaction I've felt in the past. I remember the feeling of delight when I have been pleased with a phrase that popped into my head or a discovery I've made about myself or about words themselves. Sometimes I derive satisfaction just from completing a difficult task, even if I'm not especially happy with the final product. It can be rewarding to persevere and attain some sort of closure.
Writing sometimes scares me. When I read or hear a piece that touches me deeply, written by someone who shows great skill making words dance, being exquisitely precise or lyrical, I feel as though I haven't a thought in my brain and that all my efforts are meaningless, unworthy of the effort. So many captivating styles. I love them all. At these times when I sit down to write I too wonder, why bother. When I find myself stumbling and lurching from thought to thought with no theme or thread of connection from essay to essay, I question my efforts. Then I think how liberating it is to have no constraints. Whatever idea leaps into my head is fair game, something to explore and I go on.
Writing can speed up my mind or calm me. It always opens me and centers my thoughts. Writing humbles me and makes me revere the wordsmiths I admire even more than I have in the past. It makes me a better reader. I am aware of details now that I never saw before I began this practice. Even a little knowledge breeds greater appreciation. Writing for me is a continuous lesson in letting go of the need to excel. The words and the process of writing lead me rather than the reverse. If I pay attention I have so much more to learn. I write because it's completely different than anything else I do.
For over 30 years I have been juried, critiqued and had my artistic growth watched and monitored by the outside world. It's my world and I love it and it has made me mindful of my creative process, so my work has developed and grown and so have I. I have spent a lifetime being serious about creativity, about being "good" at what I do. I feel an even deeper passion about clay now than I did when I first felt the seduction of the sensuous material. I love it. It delights me. Clay is my life's work. It has become a part of me and I am serious about it. Writing, this new form of creative work with words is something I am free to approach lightheartedly and learn from in a different way.
Now that I have discovered a few of the rewards that the process of writing offers, I expect to continue the practice for the rest of my life. In truth I hope to increase the amount of time I spend writing. Perhaps I will make a commitment to journal for some period of time. Another new experience to learn from. Why write if I'm not "good" at it? Because it's emancipating to be able to enjoy the rewards of both the process and the insights I gain from writing, without thought of judgment. To not take it too seriously. It's not a competition; it's an exploration. It's a gift. The question is, "Why not write more?"