Shine: a theory in practice

This month, I’ve learned that summer in New York is full of stinky piles of heaping trash. I’ve also learned that it is full of inspiring and creative women, doing and making things that are sometimes also stinky, but mostly very beautiful.

[Before I say absolutely anything else, please turn your attention to a piece of writing that has very much informed the way in which I value friendships with ambitious ladies.]

Since arriving here, I have been very luckily surrounded by a community of women who want to make something great happen. They want to write, film, create things of value. Most of the time, they are struggling and joking and reveling in their failures together over frozen drinks that they maybe can’t afford, but fully deserve. They want to make you feel something very real and, somewhere along the way, find something very real in themselves. As much as it has been great to have these lighthouse friends to show me where to turn professionally, I think the best thing that comes out of friendships with creative, ambitious women is a mutual understanding of what it feels like to want to create something, but not quite know exactly what it is. It’s really fucking hard.

It’s really hard for me to describe to someone who doesn’t experience creativity this way exactly what it feels like when you feel the urge to make something. I’ve done a lot of research on the Flow theory or creative trances or whatever, and it’s interesting. But the most amazing thing is that, even when you’re working in a creative industry, you just can’t feel creative all the time.

Sometimes, it happens with little effort. Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming in a thick syrup, hot and sticky and it gets in your eyes but you have to keep swimming. You are still feeling so alive and ready and you know that you will find the thing you’re searching for — even if it takes multiple drafts. Rewrites are just jumping back into the syrup, but with a lot less enthusiasm. Maybe you bring someone with you the second or third time around. Maybe they tell you the things you found in the syrup are awful, and that you should start over. They might say you shouldn’t go there ever again. But you will.

Have you ever run a race? Or anxiously waited, shaking, toes on the edge of a swimmer’s block, ready to dive in? Making the thing you need to make feels like that. It’s a shaking, shivering feeling. I feel it most often after I’ve kept a barrage of notes for weeks, and finally something has served as a catalyst to make me want to put them together. I feel it right now. I don’t usually like writing things in public because it usually involves a lot of movement that I imagine would make onlookers think I was reading something terribly troubling or uncomfortable on the Internet (which is also a thing I do frequently). I can’t sit conventionally, feet planted firmly on the ground, spine upright and uncoiled, wrists lifted ever-so-gently so as to avoid carpal tunnel (another thing I look up on WebMD at least once a week). I fidget my feet on the ground and sometimes have to twist up my knees underneath me, double criss-crossed. Or I sit in the half-splits on the floor, typing rapidly like a hunched over gollum. It feels good, it hurts, and I somehow have to keep doing it.

People ask why we do this. They ask us a lot about stability and family and money and really like to use the words “lucrative” and “profitable.” Just last week I was at a very obnoxious bar in Brooklyn and I told a very drunk man in a pastel gingham shirt (first sign of trouble, honestly) that I was trying to be a writer. He loudly yelled at me: A WRITER SHIT! Print is dead! And where would I make money! Maybe you could work for the New York Times though, that would be FUCKING DOPE HUH? WE SHOULD DANCE LETS DANCE.

(I said no).

I could go on forever, maybe. Point being: don’t talk yourself out of the thing that makes you feel like you are very alive. Surround yourself with people who will do the thing with you or watch you do the thing, and tell you how much of a badass you are. Preferably over a table of frozen margaritas.