A friend recently emailed me about feeling like she is pulled between two different directions for life work and graduate school. It reminded me of my own experiences during my 20’s, and I feel like this is something many people must go through, so I want to devote a post to how I came to decide between my art and my writing.
I grew up writing poetry and drawing, because my mother used to write poetry and she did a lot of sketching, toll painting, and craft projects that made me really inspired to do my own things with pencils, paint, and pens. I loved English and Art throughout High School, so when I went to college, I double majored in both English, with a writing focus, and Studio Art, with a painting focus. The first job I got after college was painting a mural of a sunset and a Robert Frost quote. After that, I painted a handful of murals in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, North India, Kenya, and Key West. I also taught mural painting to primary school children in Dun Chaoin, Ireland (which was even more fun than painting murals). You can see these murals on my author website HERE. I am most proud of my experiences teaching mural painting in Ireland and of the Key West mural, but during all of these projects, I was always writing poetry, memoir, or fiction on the side.
I was doing a lot of smaller paintings while living on the west coast of Ireland from 2005 until the end of 2006. It was during this time that I wrote the first draft of my memoir of Animal Care in South India and the life of my dear friend Ann, who I lost to colon cancer in 2005. I’ll always love that magic that happens when I sit in front of a wall or a canvas and just paint. Or the magic of travel photography, which I also dabbled in, but I never developed my ability to edit my photos after taking them. I just loved taking great travel pictures, which made me more of a snapshot photographer than a real photographer.
Anyway—it was through the writing of my memoir of stray dogs, and through the poetry I was perpetually writing about my romantic relationships and my relationship to the world, that I came to realize something important:
I might LOVE painting and photography, but I also LOVE writing.
So how do I choose which to devote my life to 100%, knowing that the “runner up” would probably only get 30% of my attention henceforth?
I decided on the writing because I read my words and I looked at my pictures, and I saw that I was a much better writer than I was an artist/photographer. I also needed to write far more often than I needed to paint or take pictures of things. And that’s what prompted me to apply to Goddard College for my MFA in Creative Writing, instead of going to art or photography school.
So what I’m offering to you with this post, if you are thus “undecided”, or “balancing between” two passions, or three passions) — do the following:
1. Seriously critique your work thus far in those fields. Answer this question honestly—which thing do I do better?
2. Think about your NEEDS. Ask yourself—which thing do I need to do more often? Which thing can I live without, and which can’t I live without?
Don’t think about money, or which would be easier to devote your life to, because we aren’t here to sit back and take it easy. We’re here to follow our passions and go on adventures—right?