What Happened after My Sudden Popularity (The Question You Should Ask Yourself for Living A Creative Life)

shutterstock_221487922_cropThe new year started in a whirlwind. I wrote three essays over the holidays. Two of them got on media outlets of high traffic volume. The third one was picked up on the front page of another popular website. Visits to my blog grew in leaps and bounds. I got more email followers in the first week of 2015 than in the past 12 months combined.

The sudden popularity felt surreal. I haven’t changed after all. Every day it still takes pulverizing my entire brain to put the right words on page. You can say I was simply in the right place at the right time. If you are spiritual, you call it “grace”. Otherwise, you call it “luck”.

I was overjoyed about the happenings, of course. But after the spur of exuberance settled down, what happened next was disturbing.

I found myself start to compare my articles to others published on the same sites. I checked my blog visitors and Facebook likes every few hours. “Maybe if I picked a more intriguing title, more people would click on it?” “Should I write more ‘listacles’ instead of personal stories, since the former seem to be more popular?” Thoughts like these multiplied in my head like fungus. Suddenly, I felt pressure, pressure to top myself, pressure to top everyone else.

The next day I didn’t write anything. When I sat down at my computer, I hesitated with every single word I typed, as though each of them were now a bid in the auction for fame and glory. And the bidding war was too fast-paced for my slow brain.

My writer self was angry at me. How can she not? She doesn’t give a dime about how popular I am on social media. All she wants is to write. And I just took her only job away without any advance notice. I could hear it yelling at me: “Fuck you, bitch! Give my creative freedom back!”

It dawned on me that once I let my ego highjack my writing, I was no longer in the creating business— I joined the show business instead. That’s how rock musicians who become rock stars become drug addicts, and how actresses who become Hollywood divas become patron saints of plastic surgery…

Something needs to change. Badly.

Walking my dog in deserted winter woods that afternoon, I asked myself: Why do I write?

I could have been skiing in Aspen or lying on a Caribbean beach. It was a holiday after all. But instead, I locked myself up in a room and typed away on a computer, with my greasy hair a tangled mess and laundries piling up to the sky.

Why?

Slowly, the reasons cam back to me. I write because I have a lot to say and feel compelled to say it. Because there’s a fire in my heart and a pulse of creation shooting through my veins. Because when I see a light, I can’t help but run to other beings and shout, “Oh, come! Come! Come see this dazzling wonder! Doesn’t it make whatever you went through on this earth worthwhile?”

These are the reasons I write. And as I started remembering them, I felt my footsteps steadier. The troubling thoughts loosened their grip. I could see a lot clearer ahead of me. I promised to my writer self, the creator in me, that whatever happens in the future, I’ll do everything I can to get out of her way. I will be the guardian, not the intruder, of her creative space. I’ll make sure she is safe, from me.

No matter what your medium of art is, if you’re called to live a creative life, here’s the most important question you can ask yourself— Why?

Why do you create?

There will be times— maybe more than your fair share of times— when the world can’t care less about whatever you do and the most enthusiastic response you get is a thick stash of rejection letters. There will be times— be careful what you wish for— when the applause seems deafening and the lime light too bright, and you are tempted to be who you are not just to please the crowd.

No matter how frustrating or confusing things are, you will sail through them unscathed, as long as you know the real reasons why you are doing what you do. They don’t have to be smart or sensible reasons. They just need to be real. In fact, make it “have to”. Because one day you may find that they are the only thing that can carry you through a storm and keep your creativity alive. But if you dare to trust them, if you dare to trust who you are, doors will be opened where you didn’t know doors existed.

So, my friend, why do you create?

 

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