Maybe This Isn't Your Creative High Point (and that's okay)

They say that if you want to write, you have to make time to write. Which is true. It applies to just about any art form, really - if you want to do it, you have to carve out the time, whether it's finishing a novel or painting a mural or pursuing your dream of becoming an underwater basketweaver.

And when you're in your teens, this seems logical. You spend every second of free time writing down story ideas, you do NaNoWriMo every day after school, you sharpen your skills and daydream of the Someday when all your practice will come to fruition and a more mature, better-looking version of you will become a Famous Author.

But then finish high school and you get a job. And another job. And a college education. And bills and responsibilities and phone calls to the bank and Comcast customer service (ugh).  And all of a sudden, the pressure of Adulthood comes crushing down upon you and you have no time left for your creative outlets.

And it hurts.

This is where I am right now, and if you are here too, believe me when I say you're not alone. You may feel alone as you see people around you publishing books, writing freelance columns, recording original music, sharing beautiful drawings on Instagram and filling their social media with excited anecdotes of where their art is taking them, but for every person sharing a success story, there is a prologue of frustration, disappointment, and interruptions from everyday life.

This is okay. You don't have to be a creative mastermind right now.

I know that advice sounds antithetical to what many people tell aspiring artists and writers, but it's not meant to be. Sure, Pinterest will tell you to seize the day and there's no time like the present. Pretentious bloggers who don't actually speak Latin (*side-eyes my 17-year-old self*) will wear out the words "cacoethes scribendi." But though "carpe diem" and the urge to write are good and righteous things, they don't have to send you on a guilt trip.

At this busy, stressful, working-long-hours, planning-a-wedding, penny-pinching, sleep-deprived time in my life, I'd rather take this advice to heart.

(The 10 seconds of Google research that I did for this quote told me it originated with Teddy Roosevelt.
If your more extensive research tells you otherwise, please let me know!)

You might not have time to pound out another 1,000 words for your novel right now, and that's okay, because your novel's not going anywhere. Sure, you don't want to fritter your whole life away on Netflix and Words With Friends, but you can express yourself in small ways. I know a girl who has far more artistic talent than I could ever aspire to, and though she doesn't have much opportunity to make huge, detailed drawings, she sketches adorable designs with Sharpies on paper coffee cups at the cafe where we both work. (I myself wrote 95% of this blog post during the slow moments of a rainy Saturday barista shift.)

Maybe you can't write a novel or even a short story right now, and maybe even finding the time and mental energy to scribble down character notes and plot ideas seems wistfully unreachable. But words are all around us, writer! Put a little extra effort into a Facebook post. Craft your sentences carefully in a Goodreads review. Use what you have to get the practice you need, and don't be so hard on yourself. Are you meant to write the recipient of a future Pulitzer prize? The odds say no, but you may still write a great book, so don't grow cynical. Even if you do someday join the ranks in the prize-winning hall of fame, who's to say you need to do that in your teens? Or twenties? Or thirties?

I always have to include caveats in posts like these, because I know if I don't, I'll get irritated comments - so let me just reiterate that if you're a successful creator at a young age while also balancing a career, an education, a social life, pet care, family and romantic relationships AND keeping a succulent alive: more power to you! No one begrudges you your success. (Well, I don't, at least. Most of the time, anyway.) But we aren't all quite as close to that superhero status, and that's okay.

I'm not advocating complacency, or laziness, or failure to try. I'm just saying, give yourself a break. You don't have to build Rome in a day. Or this year. Or even in your whole lifetime if you don't want to. The urge to create and work your magic in whatever art form you choose may be strong, but don't let it consume your whole life and eat away at you if it isn't within reach just now. It will be okay.

In conclusion: go hum that song that you want to get just right to your pet. Flex your writing muscle by sending an email to a loved one that just perfectly expresses how you feel about them. Draw on a disposable coffee cup and know you brightened someone's day.  Do what you can.

For my part, I'm going to work on figuring out how to write endings: to blog posts, tweets, emails, stories, what have you. I'm still not very good at that.

Case in point.

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