I walk the streets of Milan holding a warm drink in my cold hands. I feel its sweetness perfusing through the air and enveloping me in a bubble of cinnamon, freshly peeled oranges, and fermented grape juice.
My husband is chatting happily with a Spanish couple we just meet in the being of the walking tour. I smile to myself. He has the kind of laughter that creates an irresistible vortex of joy around him. The kind of voice that reminds you of a warm fireplace, Christmas sweets and old stories. 6 years after our paths first crossed, I still feel the luckiest woman in the world.
I let him do the talking. I was always the enigmatic listener with the shy smiles and unsettling brown eyes. I love listening to stories, collecting them, fermenting them and letting them fuel my imagination. For me, writing those stories became the natural next step.
Now, I won’t say I’m a naturally born and naturally gifted writer.
I’ve always struggled with words. Even after I started writing professionally, the right words continue to elude me. I’m always trying to catch them, mold them, shape them to my will… only to discover that they’re the ones playing wicked games with my mind.
My husband’s arm around my shoulders brings me back to the streets of Milan. Where I’m still holding the cup. He kisses my forehead and I suddenly remember that this is where I belong. I will think about writing and struggles at another time. When the night stretches indefinitely and the vibrant colors of my dreams blend fantasy and reality.
Right now, I’m here. And the baritone voice of your guide carries through the cold air reminding me that Italian partisans carrying heavy dreams of revolution, and beloved composers who gave beautiful voices to the people, once walked these very streets.
Giuseppe Verdi. The guide says in a perfect Italian accent that fails to betray his Spanish roots.
One of the most beloved Italian composers.
Verdi, I repeat the name in my head because I don’t want to forget it.
Through many personal tragedies, Verdi came to understand the value of love. And love became the fundamental theme of all of his creations. Even today, over 100 years after his death, artists throughout the world still celebrate the expression of Verdi’s love.
Verdi gave voice to the voiceless and expressed the passion shared by people with small and big dreams of revolution. Verdi loved the people and their struggles. Because of that, he became one of the most beloved composers of his time.
This is important. Verdi was not a misunderstood genius who only gained recognition after his death. No, he was an artist of the people, for the people.
And by being so, he set the example for countless generations of artists.
But it was my husband, the one who truly taught me how to embrace Verdi’s way of life. I understood that creating art needs to come from a place of deep and uninterested love.
The type of love that thrives in giving, expecting nothing in return. The type of love that knows how to be present, and never craves the presence of others. The type of love that knows how to let go.
It’s easy to forget that, in this world of instant gratification
There are so many articles out there teaching you marketing skills, about how to grow an audience, and how to increase your engagement rates.
But there are so few articles telling you how to renew your love for the craft, how to understand and embrace the need to become a giver instead of a taker.
How to deal with people who disregard your work.
But we live in the age of metrics. So I watch mine closely and watch the metrics of my peers even closer than I watch mine.
These metrics became, for me, a new way of life. A way of constantly reassessing my work. Unintentionally, my obsession also became the symptom of something more profound: the need for validation.
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In the quietness of my winter evenings, I think about all of this and let the new knowledge take roots. In the next few weeks, something shifts steadily inside me, like an avalanche of emotions that washes away all the toxic feelings I’ve been carrying within.
I let it wash it all, rejection, hurtful words, low engagement rates, all of that pales compared to the work that I know, deep down, that I want to do.
Want. Perhaps the most important word of all. Writing is something that I want to do. Nobody needs my writing, my stories, my insights. If I stopped writing today, nobody would die…
It’s not a mission with a higher purpose, it’s something that completes me.
Because verbal communication has never been my strong suit.
My thoughts are only complete when I sit down to write them done. When I don’t write, it’s like I’m sleepwalking through life.
Like I’m walking the streets half-awake, while the other half of my brain is buried under layers upon layers of heavy sleep.
This is my way of life. My way of expressing the feelings I tucked away inside me. The feelings that consume me and overwhelm me.
On the outside I’m a quiet person, struggling to communicate, isolated from a saturated world, unable to get those words across and reach my audience and my friends. It’s when I sit down to write that I truly gain my wings.
But those wings can weigh tons if I don’t practice the art of letting go.
It took me so many years to understand this. With my words, I wanted to chart the uncharted territories of my heart and mind. But these words would become like shackles if I clung to them too fiercely.
Verdi taught me the true definition of an artist. A timeless truth that still survives today, even if constantly besieged by the superficiality our world seems to thrive in.
But it was my husband who taught me that to love is to embrace freedom. To love and be loved, doesn’t mean to be free from pain.
But how can we love our creations and not be destroyed by negative reviews?
How do we continue writing when our words seem to be lost in a sea of noise? How do we find the motivation to keep writing when everybody else seems to be doing so much better than us? How do we show love through our work when we feel overlooked by the world?
It’s simple, and yet, so hard.
We can’t expect anything in return for the love we express through our writing.
Once we publish, those stories no longer belong to us. Our ideas become public property, and people are free to do with them whatever they please.
It’s easy to forget that when we’re confronted with the cold pain of criticism.
We spend so many hours crafting our stories and our articles. After a while, it’s hard to know where we end and the story begins. Our stories are our creations, but they shouldn’t define us.
They are ours up to the moment we decide to share them with the world after we hit Publish, we need to learn to let go and embrace whatever results from that exposure.
Be it silent or harsh criticism, to thrive, we need also to learn how to identify the things that are worth salvaging from the aftermath of our wrecks.
We need to pick up the comments that will make us a better writer and use them to move forward with our life.
How do we feed our love for the craft when nobody loves our work?
“True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Love needs to be fed so it can grow healthy and strong. And our love for writing can quickly starve if we start depending on other people’s opinions of our stories.
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The love for the craft needs to be renewed by constantly drawing strength from the little things of life, like coffee breaks with friends, late-night meals with loved ones, long phone calls, travels, conversations with strangers, the frustrating pleasure of mastering new skills…
There is an unending source of love around me. There’s an unending source of love around you too. Sometimes we just need to embrace life in its fullness, listen to our hearts beat, and welcome that love with open arms.
That is the source of love that fuels writing for a lifetime. Not social proof or recognition. Because someday these insubstantial things may fail us, leave us, and move on to embrace the next literary sensation.
And when that day comes, we need to be ready to let go.