I am, first and foremost, a Creator.

“Do what you love.”

This mantra, instilled in me by my mother, is one of the many reasons I’m grateful for her guidance. She’s said this to me many times over the years, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have chosen to be a writer without her support. Not that doing what you love is easy, but it’s much more fulfilling. I know this because I’ve done things I haven’t loved. No matter how hard it can be to sit down and set my fingers to the keyboard, it always leaves me feeling like I’ve accomplished something—the gratification of a creator.

Indeed, creativity breeds inspiration, and vice versa. The creative mind is always at work. Some days, I will sit down to write and not notice the time passing, and I’ll look up and five hours have passed and thousands of words have flown from my fingers. These days are rare, unfortunately. More often I’ll slog through an hour or two and need something to recharge. Sometimes the simple acts of walking the dog or doing the laundry will clear my mind and allow my subconscious to solve the problems of plot or character or dialogue. I have noticed, however, that working on other creative tasks feeds my writer’s mind. And so, in between writing, I create other things.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do what I love.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do what I love.

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I couldn’t say exactly how this works, or why, I just know that it does. Sometimes I worry that I’m procrastinating. I ask myself: wouldn’t my time be better spent at the computer? But I’ve tried that, too, and you can’t force creation, only encourage it. There’s common advice in the writing world, in which you set aside your work for a given amount of time before going back to revise. Some say a month, some a year. For me the time varies and I always wish it were shorter. One of the things I’m learning as a writer is finding the best ways to encourage my creation.

Sculpey dragon. A reminder that I hold the key to my imagination in my hand.

Sculpey dragon. A reminder that I hold the key to my imagination in my hand. 

Also between writing, I’m still researching away. My phone call with the agent last week went very well—not only did he give me some invaluable advice (formatting is crucial, and the 25-lines per page rule should most definitely be followed, for example), he agreed to read the manuscript. Draft 6 is “done,” and I think I may finally have achieved the triumphant end. Of course, now that I have this opportunity, I feel like I need to revise it at least fifty more times. I have a week and half to nitpick, and then it’s time to take a deep breath and send it off.

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The Passion of Asher Lev

Quite a few months back, my mentor suggested I read Chaim Potok’s My Name Is Asher Lev, and I finally read it last week. The novel tells the story of a young man torn between his religion, Hasidic Judaism, and his art. Asher Lev’s dedication to his craft was more than passion. It was like breathing, or a heartbeat – without it, he could not survive.
From the beginning of the novel, discord grows between the protagonist and his father. Asher’s father wants him to give up drawing and study Torah, but Asher is incapable of abandoning his art. His passion is such that at moments, he will make a drawing and not remember having done it. [**Spoiler Alert!!**] Ultimately Asher must choose his community or his art. By the end, Asher has been expelled from the community, and he hurts his parents deeply. He sacrifices his relationship with the two people he loves most for the sake of his painting.
I am lucky that I do not have to make this choice. I am lucky to have the support of my parents. For my father’s 65th birthday in April, I went with him and my mother to the Lang-Lang concert at the Granada Theater. Classical music gives you a lot of time to think, and during intermission, my mother said, “I’ve been thinking about what I can do to support you.” She was thinking about the way that she was raised, and how she has realized her passions later in life than I. I am blessed to have the emotional, and fiscal, support of my parents. I would not be where I am without them. They make the way for me to follow my dreams.
I do not have to make Asher Lev’s choice. I wonder if I could – I don’t think so. But I also do not think I would die if I could not write. I have received several responses to this. My boyfriend jokingly accused, “That means you are not a real writer!” As an artist himself, he is familiar with the self-questioning we creative types daily face. My writers’ group in Santa Barbara suggested several things: 1) it is unlikely that I would ever not be able to write, given the society in which we live, 2) not being able to write and not being able to create at all are different things, and 3) not writing may not inspire a literal death, but a figurative one. A mature, female artist friend said, “To die if you cannot create? That is how it is for all true artists.” 
Professional writers write all the time, on everything. They keep notepads in their shirt pockets and scribble on napkins, in lipstick on car windows. At a UCLA panel last year, Kate Milliken said – “Writers write. If I am not writing, I do not consider myself a writer.” My passion is strong but not that strong. I am no Asher Lev. I think about his character, his story, and I am both grateful and jealous. What would life be like, if I truly could not go a day without writing? Of course, it is not something I would like to test. The more I think about it, the less I like how my life might look with such a ban. Can Asher Lev’s type of passion be cultivated? I think I shall try.