As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time at work staring out the window, with plenty of time to ponder. I had a realization today at 30,000', somewhere between Denver and Newark. I discovered that the reason I stopped writing this summer was the same reason that my son didn't want to draw anymore. (See the previous Everyone's an Artist post for an explanation of his dilemma).
This spring my friend and I participated in a private writing class with a wonderful instructor. I was working on a long poem for the assignment. My father passed away in 2006, and my poem focused on exploring my relationship with him on a deeper level. As I approached revision number 15 of the poem, I not only lost interest, but I found myself not wanting to write at all for a while.
My apathy towards writing wasn't due to any fault of the instructor. I admire and respect his advice, and with each suggestion and revision the poem became much better from a technical standpoint. But it felt too much like work to me. I am very impatient, and I don't enjoy the editing process. Blog posts seem to be the perfect medium for me - short, sweet, and not a lot of re-writes. Re-working the same poem over and over again removed the joy of just throwing a fresh idea out on paper. Instead, I was trying to massage every sentence into the perfect visual image. Revising the poem made me delve deeper into my own personal growth, as well as evolve as a writer. But somewhere along the way I lost the passion to write.
So I go back to the question I posed with my son. Where is the line between teaching the correct way to draw, write, create, etc. - and stifling creativity? In my case, the writing class made my work more interesting for other people to read, and more technically correct. But the critique, although thoroughly positive and for my own growth, also made me stop writing. How can I evolve as a writer without instruction? How do I allow my inner voice to creatively express without feeling censored, when I still have so much to learn? What is the correct balance?
I guess for now, the answer is to do whatever it takes to keep me writing. Right now it feels best to focus on thought over form. Just like my son, if I become distracted by creating "correctly" instead of just writing for the sheer joy of expression, then I will quickly become discouraged. I may not win any awards for grammar or punctuation, but if I can inspire someone to think than that's all that matters. And that's what will keep me writing.