It seems to be common in human nature to doubt or second guess our creative impulses. You know what I’m talking about. Think back, how many times have you had the spark of a creative idea flash into your mind? Now, how quickly afterward did you dismiss the idea as foolish or stupid or self-serving? Probably too often than you’d care to admit.
You’re not alone. We all do it. If I had a dollar for every great idea that I then immediately heaped upon the scrap pile, I’d be a very rich man indeed. As would you.
Beating ourselves up over this very human failing is pointless. Better, instead, to recognize it when it happens and then explore where the idea originated. Where did it come from, and why did it come to me? What is the message it is trying to send me?
For me, the desire to reject a creative longing is rooted in feelings of unworthiness. “Who are YOU to write about such things?” or “What do YOU think you could possibly add to what has already been done?” You know the voice, don’t you?
Sometimes I second guess a creative longing because I’m not comfortable confronting it directly. Sometimes the idea seems to big for me — that I won’t be able to handle it — and that can be a scary notion.
Frightening as it may seem, we must be true to the thing that is calling to us, no matter how absurd or daunting. It calls to us because only we can answer it. Alden Nowlan address this notion perfectly in his poem, The Seasick Sailor and Others:
The awkward young sailor who is always seasick
Is the one who will write about ships.
The young man whose soldiery consists in the delivery
Of candy and cigarettes to the front
Is the one who will write about war.
The man who will never learn to drive a car
And keeps going home to his mother
Is the one who will write about the road.
Is a computer programmer who dreamed of traveling through outer space qualified to write about a stranded astronaut surviving alone on Mars? I don’t know, ask developer-turned-megastar-author Andy Weir.
You may not be called to write a New York Times Best Seller or sell the movie rights to a Hollywood blockbuster. But there are creative longings stirring inside you. Do not be so quick to dismiss them. Trust in them — and yourself. It just might change your life.
Author’s note: No doubt you correctly surmised Nowlan was describing Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac. Well done!