Inspiring Tidbits

There All Along

Homemade tin man hanging above a porch swing in Austin, TX – if he’d known he had a heart all along, he might have missed out on a great adventure

Around this time last year I set foot in an MFA classroom at The University of Texas for the very last time. In other words, I was on the verge of completing a rigorous screenwriting program and was nervous as all heck about what the future held. I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t brim over with the immediate job prospects and fame I’d fantasized about when starting my MFA studies, and – quite honestly – the unknowable entities on the horizon scared the crap out of me. Although I’m still a bundle of nerves and fears in many ways, I now realize that the past year taught me a lesson no classroom ever could – that you don’t need anyone’s permission to make things, you just need guts.

If you’ve ever been in an artistic master class or a work environment that relies heavily on collaboration, you probably know exactly the kind of withdrawal I went through when I suddenly wasn’t offered the endless flow of constructive criticism that writing workshops provide. For months I would put off starting projects because I felt I needed at least a dozen sources of feedback first, but somewhere along the way something clicked and I realized how liberating it was to not be waiting on numerous people’s approval. Sure, I still go to peers for critiques and honest opinions, but usually only after completing a first or second draft; and, I think there’s a lesson to be learned here that applies to all kinds of creative professions…An artist would be crazy to shut out advice and opportunities to grow, but he/she would be even crazier to spend an eternity waiting for permission to start creating.

With this lesson in hand, I can’t help feeling like the Tin Man right after the Wizard of OZ tells him he’s had the ability to love all along. I also feel like shouting this newfound wisdom from the rooftops, letting aspiring artists everywhere know that it’s time they stopped waiting and started creating. I realize I can’t learn other people’s lessons for them, however, and I know almost all of us have to go on unique journeys before we find the courage to create regardless of criticism and cajoling. Still, I feel liberated by the knowledge that I am (and always have been) free to create whatever and whenever I please, and I can’t wait to hear about the creative journeys and lessons of others…Have you had similar experiences of realizing what you’re looking for has been there all along? Are there other creative lessons you’ve learned? What journey brought you to these juicy tidbits? Do tell.

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  • Reply Tony May 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Creative lessons-
    ‘you don’t need someone’s permission’ is a good one.
    “never be afraid to go there”
    “write drunk, edit sober” not literally. Rather, write uninhibited, from the heart, or guts maybe, then rewrite with a more intellectual eye….Maybe drunk, literally, once in a while.
    and, quite important not just in writing but also in life: nobody has this shit figured out. come at it from whichever way you like.

  • Reply Jennifer R. Coté May 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    These are such true lessons, Tony. I especially like your last one: “Nobody has shit figured out.” It’s amazing how much more approachable life’s problems are when you realize there isn’t a single person out there who has all the answers…No one has shit figured out, and yet people somehow get stuff done; if we all aspire to be clueless folk who get things done, we’ll be all right.

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