The day I wrote the Commencement Magazine Article was a wonderful writing day. Or at least, the day was wonderful, even if the writing was not. I wandered around in Marina Square, and found a nice long counter-ish tabletop in St Marc Cafe, where I spent the entire afternoon writing. I was a little disappointed that they did not serve main courses because I was rather hungry, but to my pleasant surprise, my order was hugely satisfying. I had a egg-pie thing, a Chococro and a Royal Milk Tea. They were all delicious.
The writing, on the contrary, was torturous. I spent hours writing a simple 800-word piece. I edited it again and again, because I was pandering to too many expectations and I was being too politically correct, while trying not to be pretentious – which makes it all the more pretentious.
When a friend raved about St Marc’s Chococro after I told her I was there, I had the very noble intention of buying a couple for her and dropping by her house at night to give her as mugging motivation. But my pride won over my charity, and I stayed at home to continue working on the Article. In the end, it turned out utterly mediocre. Which was depressing. Which was, in turn, disturbing how depressing it was.
Elizabeth Gilbert gave another TEDtalk in March this year. She talked about writing being her home, and how both great success and great failures “catapults you abruptly” away from your home. The only difference is that the world views success as ‘good’ and failure as ‘bad’. The solution?
… and that is that you have got to find your way back home again as swiftly and smoothly as you can, and if you’re wondering what your home is, here’s a hint: Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don’t know, your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential. [emphasis added]
From the moment I read Prophets of a Future Not Our Own, I was captivated by the idea of results not mattering. Which is probably why I am just as drawn to Gilbert’s solution. They propose a much more compassionate and humble approach to being a minister and an artist – both of which are very similar in their collaboration between divine muse and human effort.
It was probably no coincidence that I watched this talk the day after I wrote the Article. Because recently (note: I wrote these paragraphs before my Alaskan Trip), my faith and my identity have been very tied up with my work. I pray most fervently when I am writing, because I want to force God’s goodness into my work. That says quite a bit about both my prayer life and my work attitude: I use God to do my work, rather than use my work to reach God.
P.S. Reading this made me think about Peter, which made me sit my ass down and finally complete this post. And whether Peter was one of those instances when I abused my gift of writing, whether it was one of those instances when I made immoral art. (On a sidenote, I really wonder who wrote that piece for Universalis.)
P.P.S. I’ve received affirmations for the Article. My standard response is that I’m not particularly proud of it. But honestly, the affirmations are confusing. I mean, just when I reach home after the critical reviews threw me out in one direction, now affirmations want to entice me out in the other direction for the same piece of writing? Seriously.