Reader Question: There Aren’t Any Definitive Starting Points

“…Like yourself and all other people who possess a natural talent and gift, the fear of how other people will receive that gift holds me back, unfortunately. Erykah said it best- ‘keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit. I have never shared my writing with anyone aside from my best friends (and you) and even they have only read one or two things that I produced…maybe you could provide me with some sort of insight or advice on where I should start since you’ve been in this writing game for a while.” –Tamara

I would love to tell you that there is a definitive starting point. I would love to tell you do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars and start at some neatly carved-out square with your name beautifully written on it. I wish it were that easy. But, there are not any definitive starting points. There is not anything clear or clean cut about entering the writing world. There is not a rule book. There is not a manual. It’s you in the middle of a desolate field, shouting into the void and only hearing your own echoes. It’s you in the center of bumblefuck, without any guide or compass. Bumblefuck is where you start.

Sure, you can ask others, the same way you asked me. You can ask them how they got started. In fact, you should ask them how they got started. I’ve found that people who want to dive into the writing world ask questions. They’re voracious for knowledge and stories and dos and donts. I’m still the same way. I always want to ask before I make a move. Always want to look left, right, forward and backward before I leap. I always want someone to affirm that I’m not about to screw everything up. But, I have found the only person who can ever truly affirm that is me. My gut. My intuition. The voice in my head left humming after everyone else has said their piece.

The voice in your head that’s humming–that is where you start.

I could tell you to start a blog because that’s how I started. But, I would also have to tell you that blogs are very public beasts and every day I struggle with whether or not the term “personal blog” is an oxymoron. That public element is the only reason anyone outside of my mom cares about what I write. But, that public element is also why total strangers think they know everything about me. Blogs are you putting your shit on full display. Blogs are your dirty laundry hanging on a clothesline for the entire neighborhood to see.

But, as an artist who is sensitive about your shit, blogs are also a way to connect with other artists…who are sensitive about their shit. Blogs are you saying the things that others think and may be afraid to say aloud. Blogs are you being brave, audacious, forthright, candid, honest, authentic. Blogs are you committing to your art and having an audience hold you accountable to that commitment.

That commitment is where you start.

Bumblefuck, the voice in your head and a sense of commitment. Those are your not-so-definitive starting points. You don’t get a neat starting point. Just start. A starting point is something you only understand in retrospect, a light beam of a moment you remember as you’re speeding down the highway of your career and reminiscing about who you were before you zoomed away.

And, to address the first part of your question in the last part of my response…

I’m currently working on a poem I’m set to perform in two weeks called “World Under Fire.” It’s a political and personal piece. It’s autobiographical. It’s dense and intense. Last night I was reciting it and afterward I said aloud, “Man, I really hope people get this poem.” That fear about the reception of our art doesn’t go away. But, how people will receive your gift does not eliminate the fact that you, indeed, have the gift. If you want me to get all biblical on you, I would say to whom much is given, much is required. Artists bear the responsibility of sharing the work the world needs to see, hear and feel in order to survive. We keep the pulse of the world going when it’s dying, when it’s flat-lining, when there is not anything but seeping piles of shit every time we turn on CNN. We are not the brains of the operation; we are the heart.

Some people won’t get your art. Some people won’t like it. Some people are idiots and some people are cynics. But, gifts are not for all people to “get” or like. The recipe for your art is not for everyone’s palate. The fear is natural; the choice to let it hold you back, however, is limiting. You have it. Share it. Distribute it. Display it. Believe in it. Reveal it. Unveil it. Showcase it. Fight for it. Live loudly. Live boldly. Live unapologetically. Live with brass balls and a bursting heart. That is why you have the gift. Use it.


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