Trees and Writers Keep Growing Or Rot Inside

One of the hardest things a writer has to do is constantly outgrow their world.

The hard reality is it is only by recognizing multiple paths forward in both craft and creativity and abandoning old visions will a creator have room for innovation.

But the fan base you’ve built, those who’ve bought your work and paid the bills, those people don’t want you to change. Nope. Not a bit of it.

Here’s my dilemma, I can stay in the old way of doing things to make my fans happy or I can go all creative and make myself happy.

My guess is that by staying in one place — a safe place —I’m going to have to tell myself a story about how creative I am or how my work is “growing” somehow or how it’s helping so many people.

But deep down, in the corner of my soul, I’ll know I’ve compromised.

I like to tease my children about being on my 9th (or is this the 12th?) midlife crisis. But as my children also know, I reinvent myself with each change. From consultant to nurseryman, to award-winning, garden-writer to writing fiction to… (maybe stone carving or sculpture) I try to live the advice I pass along.

Note this is not the same thing as taking a job to pay the bills or writing at something while I create in other spaces. Those things are bread-of-life.

When I talk about taking creative leaps, I’m talking about soul-of-life.

Another way to imagine a creative career is to imagine a tree. A tree is an interesting life form and I like to think of an artistic career as a multi-branched tree with tons of big branches leading to smaller ones. When you get to the end of one, you get to find another, walking out the new branch to the very end as well.

But creativity, like a tree, is either growing or it is dying. And like a tree, it is either balanced in its growth or it falls over in a storm.

I also note trees take many years to die once they stop growing — mostly rotting from the inside. You see where I’m going with this?

I grow or I die as a creative person and without that active, visible growth showing in my work, I’m rotting away from the inside.

By the way, this is a tough one because there’s a real world out there where the bills have to be paid. But — nobody said following a creative dream was easy.

I wouldn’t want to do it if it were.

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