“I Quit Writing Because of You.”

In my last post, I mentioned that I turned to visual art after a long stint in the writing world came to a bitter end. Here’s the story and how it absolutely changed my life (and my perspective):

For over ten years, I’d worked progressively as a freelance writer, writing instructor, copy editor, and managing editor. Then the family and I picked up and moved from the Big Apple to Abu Dhabi.

Of course, me being me, I decided to start a personal blog about our new expat life (cliche but I didn’t care — writing was my thing, after all). I shared the blog address on these cute change-of-address cards that I snail-mailed to all our friends and relatives (the ones we talk to, I mean). Life went on.

A few months later, I wrote a post in which I mentioned something my sister had told me — honestly, I can’t remember exactly what it was now, but it was regarding my parents. The post was about the fears, challenges, and guilt of moving so far away from family.

Unlike my other blog posts (ha!) that one actually got read and generated feedback — only, it wasn’t “thanks for sharing something real.” It was “you need to take that post down now because I know the quote you included was mine and I don’t want anyone to know or guess that it was me.” Only, the quote was not, in fact, attributable to this person with this frantic concern.

Well. At first I refused to delete the post, so troops were rallied. But after some conflict and pressure from said troops, I did end up deleting the post. And the whole goddamned blog. I was angry, like really pissed off, that I’d been bullied into censoring “offensive” words that didn’t even concern the offended! The Scorpio in me bared its stinger high and large — I became resentful and decided that I would give up writing all together. “If I can’t write the truth,” I seethed, “I won’t fucking write at all!”

That’s when I got serious about photography, something I’d dabbled in before as a hobby. I decided to focus on (no pun intended) taking boring pictures of nice things because that never offended anyone.

That was four years ago.

Now, I tell this story, not because I’m still playing the victim card and want your sympathy — I don’t. On the contrary, I take full responsibility for the “end” of my relationship with writing. I decided to stop while blaming others for it.

Instead, I tell this story to say that I know how difficult, scary, and freakin’ frustrating it can be to stay true to your creative calling. There are so many reasons (fears, let’s be honest) that hold us back. The ones that got in my way were:

  • What if someone is offended by my work?
  • What if someone criticizes my work?
  • What if someone misinterprets my work?
  • What if I’m really not good at what I do?
  • What am I doing wasting my time on this? It’s not like I’m getting paid!
  • No one important is ever going to see my work.
  • Too many of the wrong people are seeing my work.

I could continue listing dozens of more reasons why, in general, people turn away from a creative life. And that makes me sad, truly, to imagine all of the beautiful and tragically beautiful things that could be released into the world, if only these god-awful anxieties, fears, resentments, and other hangups didn’t exist!

So as I said, I quit writing four years ago. And until this year, 2018, with this very blog, I truly haven’t written a thing. I’ve missed it desperately (and writing these blog posts feels like a long-awaited homecoming with an old friend). But in the meantime, I’ve become pretty ok at photography, have developed an intense passion for it, and have launched a new career.

However, guess what… apparently photography can be offensive! It can be “disturbing” and “uncomfortable” and cause people to ask, “Why would you ever make something like that?” I know, because after I started shooting more than cat photos and kids’ birthdays — when I started creating images for myself instead of for others — my work got criticized in this way. But you know what else? There was no way I was quitting photography.

It was time to learn how to deal with my hangups instead of run from them.

In my next post? You guessed it — how to face down roadblocks and stay on your creative path. I’ll share what worked for me. Click here to read.

 

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