“We need the voices of all the poets,” Robert Duncan wrote. This has long been a credo of mine.
Yet, I have to remind myself of it. Especially when I’m feeling “not good enough” as a poet.
At times like those, I can start to feel “What’s the use? Who needs my poems anyway?” There are so many poets writing today and too few readers. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless.
When we are feeling this way, we have lost sight of a vital truth, a truth we may not have been told when we were young, but one that is essential to living ongoing, joyful, creative lives:
Your Artistic Voice Is Unique
You have something to say. Your voice, perspective and experience are unique. There has never been another you in all of time. You have unique gifts that the world needs. You have something of value to share. Or you wouldn’t be here.
You wouldn’t have an urge to write or paint or dance, if someone didn’t need what you are creating. Or if we didn’t need the self you will become through the act of creating. Because creating transforms us in powerful ways.
You Still Have to Work to Refine Your Art
Just because you are unique and needed here doesn’t mean you can be lazy about your art.
You owe it to your art and your audience to hone your work to its finest expression. To play hard at it. To not be self-satisfied with half-measures and sloppiness. To wrestle with your art. To stretch and challenge yourself. To study and learn.
Devote yourself to the deep study of your craft, the work of other artists, the history of your art form. Work with teachers, mentors and peers to refine your technique and expression.
I believe in working devotedly at your chosen art form, if you wish to share your work with others beyond a few friends and family.
If you wish to develop as an artist, then you are choosing to serve not only yourself and your own ambitions, but a larger purpose, to serve your people, to serve Life, to serve the Divine.
You are agreeing to step beyond mere “self-expression” and your own desires into a greater realm of service, surrender, mystery.
Welcome. You have chosen a great path, or rather it has chosen you.
That path will challenge you and ask much of you. Some days it will bring you to your knees in despair, doubt or disappointment. It will also grace you with support, synchronicities and blessings.
Creative Hobbies Are Also Wonderful
Don’t get me wrong: The act of creation is meant to be divine play, not joyless, nose-to-the-grindstone work.
Allowing ourselves to have creative hobbies, for which we have no ambition, but simply allow ourselves to play, to create for the joy of creating, is an enormously healthy, wonderful gift to ourselves and our world.
Creative play makes us happier, sweeter, more alive people. It brings more fun and grace to our lives. It makes us more adaptable, responsive and imaginative. These are all great goods. Worthy in and of themselves.
So let yourself make messes, experiment and just play with art too. Let yourself dabble in art forms you don’t wish to master.
Go Forth and Create!
Whatever road you choose, to simply play and have fun (as I do with collage) or to devote yourself to an art form in service to a higher calling (as I do with poetry and writing), bless you.
We need the voices of all the artists.
To your abundant creativity,