In Montblanc Lucky Orange. I’m still amazed that there are parents who don’t understand this. My kid is braver than yours because I don’t give her a hard time or make her feel bad for how she feels, I let her choose what she wants to do and then I support her. If she feels afraid, we talk about being afraid. If she gets hurt, we talk about getting hurt. At no point do I ever tell her what she is or isn’t supposed to feel. She feels what she feels and she knows that’s fine with me, and she’s a thousand times stronger and braver for it.
From my first book, I Wrote This For You. Done with a Kaweco Sport, one of my favourite pens – this is the black one with the bold nib from the calligraphy set. I’ve loved them ever since I found a clear one at MOMA in New York. I own three of them now, one of which was given to me by my wife the night before my daughter was born.
This is one of the hardest things to accept for people with a creative slant. For some reason, we firmly believe we are the applause from the crowd, the award being won, the painting being sold, the deal going through. And we are elated when these things happen. But of course we then go on to think that we are also the one star review on Amazon, the job at the studio we do not have, the empty book signing, the unreturned phone call or the business that never gets off the ground.
So we get depressed.
But we’re not those things. We are not the things we do.
Do you know what 99% of the world spend’s their time thinking about?
It’s not the prestige of their job because for most people, a job is just a job, it’s a means to an end and who they fundementally are doesn’t depend on it.
Their families are who they are. Their friends are who they are. What they spend nine, ten, eleven hour days putting in a can or serving behind a counter isn’t them, it’s just something they’re doing.
You will go on an emotional roller coaster than will break your neck if you convince yourself that who you are depends on what you’re currently creatively doing.
So let me be clear:
You are not your painting, your poem, your song, your movie, and you are definitely not your instagram account.
The success or failure of your work doesn’t change who you are, even if it does change people’s opinion of who you are (which doesn’t change you either).
You are a creative person who wants to bring beautiful things into the world in whatever way you can and no matter how you do it or who responds to it, you’re still you – and you are remarkable and beautiful and incredible and so far out of the average just for trying.
And that is as true when you begin and it is when you end, regardless of whatever success happens along the way.
Iain S. Thomas
If you’re in Cape Town, I’ll be at The Book Lounge on Wednesday reading and signing books – click here to find out more. You can sign up for regular, often encouraging (I hope) messages from me here, and you can buy my books here.
Today, I’d like to briefly tell you about somebody I met yesterday.
I was eating lunch at a restaurant and a fly kept buzzing around my head. It was the most frustrating experience and I thought to myself, this is exactly what always happens. I can’t ever have anything nice. As I swatted at the fly my eyes fell on a man at the next table in a dark jacket with a hat pulled down low over his eyes. He looked away but we made eye contact for a second and I realised immediately that I knew him but I didn’t know how.
So I went over and sat with him and said, “I know you.”
“Yes.” He said.
“From where?” I asked and he sighed.
“I am your pain.” He said, and I believed him.
“I see.” I said and I felt the urge to get up and walk away and to go and do something, anything else but I decided to ignore it.
“Aren’t you going to run away? Or yell at me? Or scream at me and say that you knew I’d show up sooner or later?” He asked.
“Is that what I usually do?” I replied.
“Yes. And then you always forget about me.” He said. He spotted the waiter out of the corner of his eye and said, “Would you like a drink?”
“No, I’m fine thank you. Why are you here?” I asked and his eyes grew wide.
“Do you know, in all the times we’ve met, you’ve never asked that?” He said.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said. I looked away for a moment before replying.
“When my head hurts, sometimes it means I’ve not drunk enough water and I should drink more. When my stomach hurts, sometimes it means I’ve eaten the wrong thing and I should avoid it in future. When my legs hurt, it often means I’ve run too much and I need to give myself a break. So I imagine you must have a reason for being here.” I said.
“I do. Would you like to hear it?” He said.
“I would.” I replied.
And he whispered in my ear. And I listened. I did not think about what I wanted to say next or what I had to do later, I just listened to my pain and what it had to say.
When he was done, I hugged him and I thanked him for telling me what he had to tell me. And then he left.