Sunday, August 19

The Most Important Relationship You'll Ever Have

For those of you who know me, you know writing and I have had a long and complicated relationship . . .

It began when I wrote my first book in Mrs. Ruffner’s 2nd grade class, complete with my own illustrations.

Quite the little prodigy, huh . . . ? Well, not really.

The book was about a mouse, the story was one dewy clich̩ connected to another Рa paper chain of clich̩s Рand the illustrations were clumsy at best. Nonetheless, I was proud of it. It was so colorful and complete, its yarn binding and Sharpie printed title so formal . . .

But the joy of that first book was overshadowed by other interests quickly as second-graders aren’t exactly know for their attention span, and writing and I were on-and-off-again in the years after that.

During high school, I started dating art and writing became that childhood friend who was not-so-secretly in love with me, who I fell back on when art and I weren’t getting along, which was often. When we weren’t hot and heavy, we were giving each other the cold shoulder – I was either defying the properties of acrylics, much to the praise of my teachers and the frustration of my fellow art students, or I couldn’t even draw a decent circle. I didn’t even want to pick up a pencil.

All the while, writing waited.

And waited and waited and waited, until my sophomore year of college when art and I finally imploded. My classes weren’t challenging to me anymore, and the idea of making art on computers – which is where everyone insisted the field was going – was as alien to me as it was repulsive.

Once art was out of the picture and I let myself fall for writing, though, there was no going back. It became clear me that writing had been “the one” for me all along, and that it was never writing that I didn’t believe in – it was myself.

I had/have a lot of work to do because, especially when comes to your life’s passion – that thing that you do for no reason other than the fact that you just can’t help it – “the one” can very easily become “the one that go away.”

Here are three (of many) ways I’ve learned to avoid that . . . or, if you’d prefer, to hit it head-on:

1. Have “The Talk”

In other words, define the relationship.

Whatever your passion is, decide if it’s going to be a hobby or a lifestyle – “just a friend” or “the one.”

This can change over time, of course, as writing did for me, but sit down figure out how it fits into your life now. Set some boundaries and goals; ask yourself what your short-term and long-term objectives are, how much time and energy you can (or can’t) dedicate to meeting those objectives, and then do the math.

Do the numbers make sense . . . ?

This is what “The Talk” is all about. Managing your expectations. You can’t expect results that are greater than the sum of your efforts – it only sets your passion up to disappoint you and you to feel as though you’ve wasted your time.

For your passion to meet your priorities it first needs to one of them.

2. Give Each Other Space

Okay, so I know I just said your passion needs to be a priority, but don’t forget to come up for air every once in a while.

For me, that means putting my book aside some nights, the laptop away, and watching some RHOBH. (If you know what that stands for, please don’t judge me . . .) Other nights it means going out for a beer with my boyfriend, or sitting in the Jacuzzi with my girlfriends, and talking about anything other than writing.

Occasionally stuffing my brain with junk food lets the creative juices percolate, letting me go back to my work with fresh eyes and new energy, wherein lies the lesson:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  

True, there is no better high than the endorphin/hormone cocktail that comes on the side of any new relationship – you know, the one that makes you suck face so much that it’s only a matter of time before you’ve learned to breathe through each other’s nostrils – but it’s called a “high” because it’s not meant to be sustainable. You still need to be a functioning human being outside of the relationship; you have your own friends (non-writers, in my case) and other outlets, an identity separate from your passion. 

3. Let Being Happy Be Enough

(Okay, time to get heavy.)

This last way seems like the most obvious as well as the most straight-forward, and still sometimes I catch myself forgetting why it is that I write. I let myself get caught up in other people’s opinions of how I’m living my life (not to mention the fact that I am never not poor) and forget that I write because, for me, writing is breathing; I would die if I didn’t do it. I forget that it makes me happy in a way that has no use for words, no need of an explanation.

So then, if by the end of my life I have never published anything of consequence or made my fortune, so what . . . ?

If by the end of your life you have never headlined a concert or opened a gallery, whatever it is that you set out to do, so what . . . ?

Are you going to regret doing what what made you happy. . . ?

Are you going to wish you'd been an accounting specialist instead . . . ?

No . . . ? Then let your happiness be its own accomplishment.

“Remember the good times, not the bad or the ones you never had.”  

Some of the greatest people who ever lived off the beaten path found neither fame nor fortune until well after their deaths, and had fame and fortune been their aim, their great works would not resonate with their passion such as they do. Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and the poems of Emily Dickinson are amongst those that would be lost to us had their progenitors needed to be known, or even paid . . .

They don’t call us “starving artists” for nothing ;)

Until next week!

XO, Mal

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