Confessing My Creative Sins, Pt. 1

As a large, flippered, marine mammal once said, the time has come to talk of other things.

But these aren’t easy things like shoes and sealing wax, dear readers. These are hard things, and they’re things it hurts me to talk about. I need to talk about them…but the telling comes with a painful price.

2nd grade short stories

I’m going to tell you about how, once upon a time, I forgot that I was created to create. I’m going to tell you about how I lived in constant fear and about how I did not stand up for my artist-child self. I’m going to tell you about how I didn’t protect her.


This will be a story in multiple parts. It’ll require dredging up stuff about my past that I would rather not think about.

So, let me put it off just a little longer by sharing with you something I recently read:

“In life…we only have one choice at any given time. The choice to go left or right…forward or backward. The choice to live or to die. The choice to grow or stay the same… .

Just the same as our choice, we have the ability to grant permission or deny it. Permission to love. Permission to praise. Permission to dance. Permission to edify and to justify. Whether in conversations, relationships or alone, we give permission to those around us every single day.

What I find to be most intriguing in my travels as coach and motivating speaker, is how often people give up their choice by granting permission to someone else to make it for them.”
Tammy Redmon of*

Darling readers, I’ve spent much of my life fiercely defending my belief that we humans are blessed with free will, with choice. And, while I was so vigorously defending my free will, I was also refusing to exercise it. I paid bounteous lip service to the idea of choice, but I allowed other people to make my choices for me.

Created To Create

If you’ve read my About page, then you know the story of how I first realized that my teenhood dreams of authordom actually went farther back than I thought. If you haven’t read my About page, then you should go do that now.

No, really. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

All right! So, now you know about the wordy second grader, the spiders, and the haunted castle. We can move on from there.

My second-grade self knew and took for granted that I was created to create. With all the innocent, stronger-than-steel faith of a child, she trusted wholly in her connection to the thirst-slaking wellspring of creativity. She drank deeply and constantly from the Source. At age 8, age 10, age 12, I had no doubts about what and who I was.

I was creative. I was a word-artist.

When did I start to forget? Ah, it’s impossible to pinpoint. The forgetting didn’t happen from one day to the next. No, it was a gradual clouding-over of vision over the course of more than a decade. I couldn’t have stopped it. I was too young and naive to imagine it could happen to me, much less recognize that insidious progression.

Creative Memory Loss

My late teen years probably saw the most rapid and intense onset of creative memory loss. I was thinking ahead to universities, to majors, to job-after-college. Make money with writing? Not likely, so let’s get a degree in psychology and write on the side.

“On the side” meant “not at all” until my last year of college, when I finished my novel-in-progress for my senior project in English. By now, I’d dropped Psych as a major and adopted Writing instead. One would think this would encourage a prolific pen. Instead, I finished the project, graduated, and let my writing slow to a crawl for a couple of years.

“Real life” left me neither time nor energy for writing. It didn’t seem like a grown-up activity. Forgetting the creativity felt more mature. Not to mention easier.

Who was telling me that being a grown-up canceled out being a writer? The answer: nobody. Nobody came to me and said, “Courtney, you’re an adult now. It’s time to put these childish dreams of writerdom behind you. It’s time to Make Something Of Yourself. Grow up.”

I wish someone had said that to my face! Blatant attempts at control are easy to combat when they’re right under my nose! I could have stood firm under a barrage of verbal criticism, but I didn’t know how to fight the subtle undermining of my creative foundation.

Giving Away Permission

My soul submitted to the shackles one tiny little step at a time. They were laid upon me by society and by unspoken, between-the-lines judgments from various people in my life.

I learned to see my writing as just a hobby. Oh, if anyone had asked, I would’ve assured them that I still intended to publish someday. But I didn’t behave as though I believe that. I behaved as though, in a Top Ten list of priorities, writing hovered somewhere around 9.5.

After I graduated from college, three years passed before I started writing another novel. In the meantime, I wrote poetry. I painted. I moved to the other side of the world.

I did everything I thought I was supposed to be doing.

Read Tammy’s quote again. See those lines about permission? I gave society and other people permission to decide what I should do with my creativity. Everybody had sanction to determine the fate of my artist-child self.

Everybody except me.

To Be Continued…

So, my dearies, that’s the start of the sordid story I’m trying to tell you. I don’t really want to tell it, but I think I need to tell it. And from what some of you have told me and asked me — both in comments here and in person — I suspect some of you might need to hear it.

So keep coming back. I’ll be talking about this for at least a few more posts.

*Quoted by permission.

12 thoughts on “Confessing My Creative Sins, Pt. 1

  1. While reading this post, Courtney, I realized that YOU are one of the reasons that my life so far hasn’t taken the sad turn that yours did. You moved back to the states when I was a junior in college, and I had been focused for the past two years on reading and writing papers rather than my own creativity. One of the first things I heard about you was that you were “working full time” as a writer. I was incensed, let me tell you. How dare she get to stay home and write all the time while I have to work at Sonic and do all this homework?! But what you unconsciously taught me was that it’s totally legit to stay home and write. It can be a job, too, if you’re willing to work hard enough at it. So while I’m not quite to the point where I can quit my day job, you have been encouraging me for the past three years to take my writing to an “adult” level, because if Courtney can do it, so can I!
    (Sorry if this comment is a Spoiler* of your life story.)

    • Wow. Jessie, that’s not a spoiler at all. I had no idea that what I’m doing inspired you like that — or that I was teaching anything at all just by doing what I’m doing. I feel honored and humbled to hear these things from you. Thank you. : )

      I think my parents have been my main inspiration in this. They sacrificed over and over and over again and moved to the other side of the world — just so my dad could pursue his creative dream of singing opera fulltime. Because they were willing to work hard and sacrifice whatever they had to, he lived his dream for 27 years until he retired. (Hmmm…I sense a blog post in there somewhere…)

      For me, it’s a matter of asking myself, “Self, how far are you really willing to go? And when you’ve determined the limit to your willingess to sacrifice…are you willing to go a few steps farther?”

      Most of the time, the challenge in that second question still terrifies me.

  2. Patricia says:

    Ouch! Those are my toes!

    • I know, sweetie. They’re my toes, too. Sadly, our toes are going to get a lot sorer? more sore? before I’m through. I haven’t even started talking about the “religious shackles” yet! Oy vey.

  3. J.J.Brown says:

    Now there you go again with another great provocative blog post. Giving away permission for your own creativity should probably be listed as a mortal sin. It kills part of you, I mean me, not later, but now. When I was in 6th grade I penned a quite short story about a lost pony with a broken leg lost in a cave (Freud says me, undiagnosed depression probably). My teacher, I’ll never forget him, read it aloud to our class without disclosing the author, me, then announced with disgust that it was clearly plagerized. Having bad thoughts about him, really, even now. Reading your intelligent post I think the real villan was me, for not continuing to write for several years thereafter. So there it is, love science, loved writing a lot more.

    • Jennifer, I agree with you about the mortal sin thing. I think denying who we’re created to be is the one thing most guaranteed to separate us from the eternal power that created us in the first place. That denial, through giving away permission, starts killing the soul the first moment we let the denial happen.

      I, too, recall being humiliated in front of the entire class by a teacher. It didn’t concern creative stuff, but it did take place with me literally up in front of the whole class. It made me fearful, ashamed, and timid — traits that spilled over into other areas of my life. It’s taken a long, long time for me to realize and live by the fact that I am not subject to those emotions.

      I wouldn’t say I was the real villain or that you were the real villain. As children, we don’t have the power to fight back against what adults do to us. We only become responsible for those emotions when, as adults ourselves, we gain the necessary resources for fighting back — but still refuse to fight.

  4. […] week, my lovelies, I started telling you the story about how I forgot my creative purpose. When I first pondered relating this tale, I thought I would approach it in logical, yea even […]

  5. I’m pretty sure the source of those shackles was related to Dante. 😉

  6. […] Pt. 1, I gave away permission. Dealing with the […]

  7. […] Pt. 1 of my Confessions, I told of how I let the world determine the course of my […]

  8. […] During the times in my adult life when I wasn’t writing, I didn’t like myself very much. […]

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