Monday, January 08, 2007

Creative Habit

A very good friend gave me this book for Christmas. I'd never heard of Twyla Tharp until then (thanks Kathy!).

I'm about a third of the way through and I have had one epiphany.

The chapter is on knowing yourself.

"I wonder how many people get sidetracked from their true calling by the fact that they have talent to excel at more than one artistic medium. This is a curse rather than a blessing. If you have only one option, you can't make a wrong choice. If you have two options, you have a fifty percent chance of being wrong."

And what if you excel at arts and science--that huge dicotomy in thinking that isn't so huge if you've lived in both worlds?

When I was small (I should rephrase that), when I first learned to write, I kept a tiny notebook (much like my daughter has just started to keep). I wrote down all sorts of rubbish. Poetry, the names of my chickens and all those tentative secret thoughts of the young and emotionally vulnerable. I can still keep a secret--some I've kept for so long I can't remember if they are even real anymore. But someone else read my notes and private thoughts and all my secrets weren't secret anymore (family, huh? Can't live with them, can't murder them in their beds).

I didn't write again until I was in my twenties.

Instead I read novels, studied art and science and could have gone in either direction. I chose science because the job opportunities seemed better (I also wanted to be a helicopter pilot, but that's a whole other story).

It took a forced break from my working environment (i.e. giving birth and motherhood) to give me the opportunity to start exploring that long abandoned drive to write fiction.

Maybe some people have it easy. Maybe some people simply know they are writers--nothing else, just writers. Unfortunately I still have nights where I go to bed wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, why am I wasting my PhD? Like Twyla Tharp says it is a curse having so many directions to channel yourself--but it must be a very common curse because most people I know are good at more than one thing.

So despite the pressures that tear at me from inside, I'm a writer. I'm not getting distracted by how hard it is. Because, yes, it is stupid to live this way, it is stupid to pour yourself into a career that is more a lottery than a reasonable enterprize.

But I must be stupid. And a writer.


  1. Happy new year, Toni - I'm finally getting around the blogs and my working year started today.

  2. Hi there, Toni! Happy Monday!

    So glad you're enjoying the book. Like you, I read a few things that hit home and had me bookmarking the page, like when she says something like "show me a writer who believes he has all the time in the world to write, and I'll show you a writer who hasn't written anything." So true, at least for me. I produce more when I have a deadline. Of course my deadlines are not official yet, but someday ... :-)

    Anyway, yes I thought of you when she wrote about having talent in more than one area, but I was thinking of your drawing skills, how true that you have even more of a dilemma because you're also scientifically inclined. Bless you! From my perspective, and from the perspective of a heck of a lot of readers, you're currently following the right calling! :-)

    Have a wonderful week!

  3. Happy New Year Diane!!

    Kathy--you are SO nice! She has some very interesting thoughts and I agree with her on many things. LOL--I especially like her 'copying the masters' ideal. Thank you again--for everything.

  4. Toni, I know how you feel. Since I have a master's degree in history and I'm working as a copywriter, I don't know that I'm actually using that degree. But in another sense, I am combining my careers. I have historical articles published and I'm using my research skills to help me with the historical research for my novels. But there are times when I long to dive into the "history" world and get a job working in a museum or something.

    God wants me to be where I'm at right now and until He wants differently, I'm just going to stay put and keep doing what I'm doing. :-)

  5. Great post, Toni, I think your experience mirrors many of ours.

  6. I hear you loud and clear on this particular...dilemma? It's not really a dilemma though, is it? More of a pondering, I think. The stuff that keeps us awake late at night as we wonder.

    At any rate, you *are* a writer and a damned fine one. Can't wait to read the next novel!

    Happy New Year!

  7. Melissa--I know you often wonder the same thing. But you're right about living life and enjoying the things that are working.

    Rene--glad you can relate.

    Meretta--pondering yes. I'm a ponderer. And thank you. :)

  8. I think there is the option of combining your talents, Toni. Like Tess Gerritsen. Write romances with an edge of science to them. Help others to see how science can be exciting or, yes, even romantic! My middle child would love to read a book like that. She's a science nut!

  9. Peggy--that's what I'm going to do next. :) First I'm trying to write a HS book which is a challenge--in a good way :)