The Art of Making It Up

Laura Freymiller - Pyragraph
Photo by Luke Skywalker.

Sometimes I grow tired. Writing is a uniquely rewarding and uniquely exhausting career path, and sometimes I just get deep-in-my-bones weary of it. I wake up, before my eyes are even open, I’m thinking of all the stories I need to write, of all the stories I need to edit, of all the rejection emails I need to glance at and then delete. All the conversations I need to avoid. And I am tired.

Progress for artists isn’t a straight line. It isn’t a clear-cut path.

Recently, it came to me that this is because, unlike with other career paths, writing has no real path. Instead it feels like I’m walking on a foggy bridge, a bridge that may or may not end halfway, that may or may not be rotten, and every day I put my foot out and then the rest of myself, and I hope to god that it will hold.

It’s particularly exhausting when I try to explain my life to other people, people with jobs in education or software engineering or lawyers. (I don’t know how I know lawyers.) It isn’t that these jobs don’t have their own challenges, but at least they speak a common language. You go to school, you get the requisite degrees, you start at the beginning and then you progress. People depart from this, of course, but basically, for the majority of people, that’s how it goes.

And then there’s me.

I majored in biology in college. And then I worked at a software company for four months. And then quit. And then worked as a hostess. And then ran off to Peru for two weeks. And then moved across the country. And now I’m working at a sort of fast food restaurant smelling like burgers and applying for roles like housekeeper, administrative assistant, community organizer, and failing at all to convince my mother that I have a cohesive idea of what my life is supposed to look like.

That’s the thing. I don’t have a cohesive idea. I don’t have any idea. I’m just writing every day. Daily throwing myself into the void and trusting the world to form around me. Trusting that my writing is getting better. Trusting that this dizzying dance from place to place and job to job will someday constitute progress.

Progress for artists isn’t a straight line. It isn’t a clear-cut path. It’s the daily practice of making it all up. Not only the worlds in our imaginations, but the world around us. I must create both my art and a place in the world for my art. And sometimes I get tired.

Which is why communities of artists are so important. I can share my triumphs and my exhaustions, my detours and my roundabouts on the way towards creation. In this daily wild process of re-creating the world, it helps to have a few friends.

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