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Are You Grappling with Your Artistic Self?

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring the lessons the author personally learned from panels while attending the AWP conference. The author  does not take credit for the wonderful ideas shared. They came from the panelists. She hopes to share what she gathered as the most important points. 

Rashmi Vaish is an award-winning journalist who has worked in newsrooms in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Queens, NY. Her poetry and non-fiction have 2 appeared in The Literary Nest, Numéro Cinq, and elsewhere. Born and raised in India, she now lives and writes in New York State’s North Country

Are you grappling with your artistic self? Do you feel like you are far away from “success” markers?  

“The journey of being an artist isn’t a sleek Sedan cruising on a highway,” says Rashmi Vaish, an award-winning journalist and writer. She compares the life of a writer/artist to a flowing river; crawling through bogs and falling off cliffs, but ultimately, gracefully and purposefully, always reaching the ocean.

Acknowledging this can help us flow with its current as opposed to against it. We can allow the understanding of our lives to inform our art; the place where we live and breathe.

But: Why do we want to write? Why do we want to create art? There is no wrong answer.

Vaish says, the most basic reason why we create art is so others can consume it. It’s a rare human who creates completely without desire to share their art. In our wildest dreams, we create an art because we want to achieve the highest commercial success. It’s not wrong to dream or aspire.

According to Vaish, the trouble begins when we take this task on and begin the act of producing. We jump on this hamster wheel and keep going and going till we exhaust our bodies and minds of the busy work of constant movement and constant production.

When our journey doesn’t look like a straight line with a perfect climb, we instantly interpret that as failure. If we are not the next best-seller, next award-winner, no amount of self-talk or convincing can silence the noise around us from labelling us a failure.

But Vaish invites you to ponder; “What if you did step off the hamster review, and choose to listen deeply first? Listen for the quiet of your voice behind the sensation in your gut? Listen for the ways in which you move through the slightest wrestle when you brush up against the acquaintance to the roar when you need someone you love, listen for the burdens and cadences that sound in the walls of your house the slice of the kitchen life, the churn of the washer – much of my work rises slowly through the days in this way.”

In Felicia Rose Chavez’s book The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, she calls the difference in the approaches to creating art as product vs process. Product, Chavez says is masculine, the process is feminine.

Vaish finds this comparison validating her own experience over the years. It’s not about forcing output. Power, dominance, and control have rarely brought good in the world. It’s about allowing; making way for our inner artists to arrive at understanding and acceptance and hopefully someday a certain measure of peace.

“This approach might not work for everyone,” adds Vaish.

But if you’re grappling with your artistic self, if your core is not leaning towards peace, you will not find the answers living in some marketplace.

The answers are living in the infinite spaces between your cell walls, the spaces that hold the echo of who you are at your deepest core.

Shafeeka Hafeez

Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.

January 20, 2023

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