On Prioritizing Your Art

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My mother loves to write. She can spend hours on end telling me about her book ideas and how she’s got the next best-seller cooking every week. My mother is a nurse, and has been for 33 years. She has never published work but every day, she wakes up and writes books in her brain while caring for patients, while coming home and caring for her family, before falling asleep. She tells me that it’s never too late to pursue your passions, and I believe her. But my mother did not grant me her patience. Every day at the age of 22, I wake up and itch at the thought of not having the courage to pursue my art with my whole heart. I think of the financial instability, the way my family would worry for my future, the uncertainty of ever being good enough to be known for writing poetry. Then I go to work, come home, and write/read/edit until I fall asleep.

Now I’ve already spoken on the idea of having both. Of making time to balance a paycheck and a passion. But let me be clear: Do not ever be afraid to put your passion first. I wasted a lot of time believing that getting rid of fear is the answer, when learning to do things while still afraid is the real key. Betting on yourself takes real courage. The reality that pursuing art in any form comes with uncertainty, rejection, trial and error, and a whole lot of self doubt will never change. However, if you bite the bullet and say I love this enough to do it anyway, you win.

I had the privilege of attending an artist retreat with a bunch of other amazing creatives this summer.  I showed up with a ton of anxiety and almost a month’s worth of writer’s block. During my time there, I was gifted the opportunity of having a one-on-one session with Philadelphia’s poet laureate, Yolanda Wisher. I told her about my fears and issues, as well as, everything I currently fill my time with. She hit me with a fuckload of wisdom to be honest, but what stuck with me most was her saying that she can see me teetering on the fence of going all in with writing, and I just needed to jump over. It hit me like a truck that I have been sitting on all the tools to reach my full potential, and I was just too afraid to use them. I let the fear of what can potentially go wrong if I really threw myself into writing, keep me from doing what I love. As a result, I was keeping myself occupied with everything under the sun as a distraction from this fear. I left that retreat with the decision that I was going to stop letting my poetry be the first thing I sacrifice whenever it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. If I say that I love writing enough to dedicate my life to pursuing it, then it’s time for me to act like it.

To be an artist means to always be your own biggest fan and harshest critic, and it’s very easy to let that critical voice shout loudest. But remember why it’s important, remember why it keeps you alive, remember why you fell in love with it, and never let fear stop you from putting that love first. Growth is terrifying, but necessary nonetheless. My mother tells me that it’s a gift to know what I want to do so young, and it would be an absolute shame to waste it. We all get one life, and if you spend it letting fear stop you from doing what you love, then you aren’t living sis. You can be afraid, but always always always, do it anyway.

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Images: Via instagram @ladyearthx shot by @j_lynea 

Lindsay YoungComment