The wisest words I have heard about the writing life: “It’s about the work.”
They were spoken by fellow poet and friend, Kelly Clayton, as we sat on the porch of the Blue Moon Saloon one recent evening. The sounds of wailing guitars and humming voices were carried by a cool breeze. There was a kinship and knowing between us, as though we were having one, singular conversation over a lifetime. These words Kelly spoke to me, between laughs and moments of quiet, resonate because they are true.
The work is the rock we build upon.
The work is the product and the process. The ability to express and shape expression through skill and imagination is art-making. Words and their meanings alter us. Words and their meanings change lives. Creative writing is hard but if we make the commitment to do it, going deeply into the process–into the work– we allow ourselves to be changed by it. We become more through the process—and we resonate more deeply as human beings.
I have been fortunate that in the seven years of living the writing life I have had opportunities to share my work with reading and listening audiences. This is important to me because it encourages me to keep at the work. Writing is an isolating art. Connecting with others by sharing what we write can build community, which hopefully will nurture and inspire healthy artistic growth.
The more I work at writing the more I produce. What should I do with this product? I am placing pieces in an effort to grow as an artist. Exposure has given me opportunities to connect and has resulted in a proven record as an artist, which is necessary to advance in a role as a teaching artist. Expanding into a teaching role is an important goal of mine—crucial on a personal level for self-development and self-confidence. I have knowledge to share.
Writing has provided a way to doing. Doing is important. I do not want to do nothing. There was a moment when I made the commitment to actually “do” writing as a discipline, as “work.” I reflected on my skills: What am I good at? What gives me pleasure and challenges me?
Writing. The writing life is about the doing of the work and the work itself. As we shape and change the words we devise, the work shapes and changes us. Through the work we pursue new discoveries, to present to communities artifices of the highest quality we can devise. Through the work we are refined in ourselves, into greater human beings.
Thank you, Kelly, for grounding me in this truth.