My brother and I have been having a lot of talks lately about life. Maybe we’re both at the mid-life crisis stage (we’re in the right age zone, anyway!) but it’s more like were at the “figure out your life” crisis stage.
So we’ve been discussing shame and authenticity and whole heartedness (yes, Brene Brown’s work is a regular feature in our conversations) and asking the big questions like, “what is my passion?” and “what kind of life do I want to live?”
He’s a lawyer who does consumer law — very much the “fight for the underdog” kind of work that rarely pays. He loves practicing law as much as I love writing, though, and often talks about it as some bizarre cross between a never-ending homework assignment and high art.
Kind of, you know, just like writing. 😛
Every master class on writing lectures on the importance of authenticity, which seems pretty self-evident when you are considering any art form. It is supposed to be an expression of yourself, in some way, and you can only produce great art if you are committed to producing authentic art.
But talking with my brother made me realize that kind of “practice” is not, should not be, limited to the things we traditionally call art.
Law can be art; anything, really, can be art. Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception speaks to this very clearly: life itself is art, in fact art isn’t a product it’s an attitude.
And the only way to be art is authentically.
I’ve spent a lot of years being ashamed of wanting to be a genre writer. I was raised to aspire to high literary aspirations, to aim for artistic greatness, and to scorn the mere plebeians of popular culture. My love of Star Wars and Dune and Wonder Woman was simply tolerated; I was to set my sights on Granta and settle for nothing less.
I don’t want to, though. I love literature and respect the writers I know who hit that high-placed mark. It’s just not a goal that interests me, and trying for it feels false when I’m so obviously tied up elsewhere.
Some days it’s hard for me to write what I love, because of the shame I have associated with the desire to tell a rip-roaring yarn. But being authentic, with myself and others, means owning up to what I love to write and the kinds of stories I want to tell. Anything else would be mere empty posturing.
Practicing art means practicing authenticity, and being authentic means living an artistic life.
Every day, I work to make that true.