The Shame Behind the Creative Process

In college, I remember telling my poetry professor that I didn’t like editing my poems.  That it felt like I was taking some of its magic and significance away.  That I preferred it raw and “real”.  It felt watered down, too technical and unemotional, and not as impactful when I would go in to tear it apart to “fix” it.

I guess the mistake on my part was thinking that this process of editing is anything like “fixing”.  I also think that it correlates to my childhood wounds where I felt my mom was always trying to make me into someone I wasn’t by telling me to change this thing and that thing, all these parts of me.  And so to take something, like a poem, that was seemingly poured from my heart, and trying to make sense of the process of editing to make the piece “better”, just made it feel like it was not good enough to start with.

And this was the problem too, I think, because when we are always sensitive to not being accepted or seen, we perhaps, some of us, cling even more to certain parts of our identities.  Rebelling and exaggerating and defending what feels “real”.  I felt those first drafts of my poems were real.  So I didn’t want to do anything that would signify erasing it, since I have felt erased all my life.

Anyway the point is, I’ve been working really hard on this book of poetry that I would like to publish one day, and I’ve come to the insight that editing actually is very necessary and beneficial, and even enjoyable.  Because what I initially clung to were very subjective states and viewpoints.  And the art… of art… if it is to be meaningful, is to make it just as universal as well.  That is where the wellspring comes from – when it can touch people.  And I’ve come to learn that editing doesn’t take away from anything, but in fact can add more to it to be comprehensible and to be relatable and to even draw out even more insight and emotions than you previously felt.  Editing isn’t necessarily to make things “better” because they sucked before, but it can be a tool to get more so into the heart of things, of what you were actually trying to convey.

I was reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck today and also contemplating a lot on Karen Horney’s Our Inner Conflicts, particularly the parts where she writes about the idealized image that neurotics have.  What I’ve taken from her work is that some people … us neurotics … can hold on to the aspects of ourselves that we would rather be.  And to extend from that, I think working hard at something and editing something and just making an effort in general, is looked down upon because it then conveys to us that we are in fact really not these geniuses who can produce the perfect piece of art or piece of whatever straight from our noggin.  That we have to be grueling at times to get it to where it needs to be.  And this threatens our idealization of ourselves because if we were really good at something, we shouldn’t have to work so hard at it; it should just come ‘naturally’.  Manson also touches upon the idea of how our society and culture nowadays are attuned to the notion of avoiding suckage.  That we have become entitled in some ways to believe that everything that happens to us must be perfectly comfortable and positive (aka ideal) all the time and if it’s not, we feel great wrath and personal offense over it.

The best of works COMES from deep, long contemplations though, and like the statue of David by Michelangelo, things NEED to be carved out little by little to be realized.  The idea in your head isn’t enough if the work thereafter isn’t executed.  The idea also takes lots of time to unravel in and of itself.  Inspiration is inspiring and lovely and grand, but it is nothing without relating it to reality and tying it to our human experiences.  A thing is also never perfectly profound and never the perfect version of itself.  That’s why there are SO MANY different themes and ideas being recycled in different marvelous ways in music, literature, art, theater, films, etc.  And that’s why even with songs, there are remixes and covers done by others and even new versions by the same artist themselves;  these are all different interpretations of the original piece and it is ALL to add more depth and nuance to, and understanding of, the original source and what it wants to convey.

I was really naive to think intense rawness equated with what was ideal.  That is only the start of it.  To me, things that can hold the substantial weightiness with also the lightness of simplicity to be more universally accessible are what I love best.  And maybe to divert from that but, to produce work in a simple yet thoughtful way isn’t always the easiest either.  It takes a lot of skill and awareness to filter things down to be that simple yet impactful at the same time.  So the process of editing shouldn’t be looked at as inferior because of that either.

Just like a tantrum can be raw in its expression of a certain emotion, the skill to learn how to communicate those emotions effectively is a different thing.

(and yes, I did edit this entire thing.)

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