“You must be proud,” she said when she heard about my book. I nodded, but to tell the truth proud does not begin to cover it.
I am proud. Proud of the story that gave rise to the book. Proud that in a time of trouble I chose creativity instead of despair, inclusion instead of isolation. Proud of my resourcefulness in taking tools created in one situation and finding opportunities to use them in new situations. Proud that having declared my intention to write, I followed through to completion. Proud that I gave it all I had. Proud that the book reads well and offers practical techniques that I know will make a difference for anyone who applies them. Proud that having created it I have not let in languish but am doing my best to launch it into society. Proud that when I tell people it can help pull them out of a downward spiral of bad news, negative people and one thing after another, their eyes light up with recognition and I know that I have written to answer a real and present need.
The flip side of all this pride is the shame I feel when someone asks who published my book and they wrinkle their nose when they realize it is not a large and well known publisher. Shame when they hold it up and say how nice it is that they can read it in a sitting, and my inner critic labels it “slight.” Shame that I am making such a big fuss with launch parties and the like for such a little book. Shame that it is not rocket science. Shame every time someone writes or calls to mention a misplaced comma or typographical error they have found, in case I want to call my editor to task or make the correction for next time. Shame when the book falls after rising in the Amazon sales rankings. Shame when I measure what I have done to promote it against what it really takes to make a splash.
I am comforted by the fact that other artist frequently talk about their ambivalence concerning their own creations. The love of making something, the relief at finishing something, the disappointment at the distance between what one imagines and hopes for and what one can actually bring into being in the physical world.
All of this ambivalence is destabilizing to my emotional state. And gives me many opportunities to apply the four Conversations for Power and Possibility. I ask myself what is bugging me, what I want and what I can do right now. I remind myself to focus where I can control or influence the situation and not to indulge my dark side by putting attention on things I can no longer change. I remember that in the bigger scheme of things I have won the game of finishing what I start and that I have honored my commitment to myself. I remember that I wrote this book for the love of it, that I have put my creative gifts in the service of something I believe in, that the habit of writing keeps me strong and centered.
Years ago I wrote about the 10 Step Creative Process based on everything I then knew to be true. As I read them now I tell myself to take my own advice.
10. Bring image and form together and celebrate completion
“Gradually you will bridge the gap between the work that exists in your imagination and the one you are creating in the material world. You will create something real, a piece of original work. It can be tempting to judge the work wanting, and focus on the ways that if falls short of what you originally imagined. Focus instead on the satisfaction of having finished what you started, given form to what otherwise would not exist. You have contributed something of yourself to the world. Celebrate completion.”
One party (make that two) coming right up.
Three Morals in This Story:
1. Visions are inspiring.
2. There is honour in finishing what you start.
3. Ambivalence is a natural response to completion.
Yours with creativity and imagination,