Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s just about time. I’m going out on a limb here. I’ve decided to own the thing I want more than anything else in the world: I am an artist.

I’m also willing to admit that I’m terrified to admit this so bluntly.

In 2014 I quit my job and spend six months backpacking across Europe, staying in hostels and working on farms and meeting new people every day. I decided early on in the trip that when people asked what I did for a living, I would tell them that I am a writer. And for the first time in my adult life, I was choosing to be a writer: I was working creatively every day, and pulled together a second draft of my first novel. I felt more in tune with myself, more productive and more fulfilled than I had in years. It was really good.

Calling myself an artist is scary. Can you say that you are a writer if you have never had anything published? If only your friends – and mom’s friends – read and like your blog? If one of my friends asked me these questions, I would tell them that yes, yes of course you can call yourself a writer under these conditions. You are who you say you are. But giving myself this same permission is a whole different story. Once I started owning it, though, telling people that I’m a writer and answering questions about the current manuscript, I found that people were not laughing in my face or demanding to see a published hardcover. Instead, they were supportive and excited. Sure, a few people would clearly be thinking something about me saying I’m a writer when I’m only working on the first novel, but that’s feedback anyone receives from some people about any gig or passion, right?

Here’s the thing I realized recently about being an artist: there is going to be a point where you have the put the cart before the horse, be a little presumptuous and do what it is you want to do, even if there are not publishers clambering at the door or an agent asking how the latest draft is going. Yes, the chances of “making it” are slim, but sitting at home, writing away but not sharing with gumption certainly won’t get me any father along this road.

No one gives you permission to be a writer, to travel, or to pursue any of your dreams. These things you have to take for yourself, and prove to others that you deserve them. I’m finally ready to do that.

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One of the many cafes where I found inspiration during my trip.

Sometimes I feel as though my personality is a balance of being at once an audacious risk taker a well as a careful Minnesotan who wouldn’t bother anyone by tooting her own horn. Day by day, both these women wake up, have a cup of coffee then begin arguing about which one I will embody that day. It’s a fight, but we deserve the things we work for, not only those we desire.

Never before have I been so scared to claim anything, but it’s right there in front of me, mine to have if I reach out my hand and grab it.

All of these things that we do in life are risks. Hopefully calculated risks, but risks all the same. And I’d like to think of myself as the sort of woman who takes audacious risks, who quits her job and buys a one way ticket to Europe, who opens up her heart to the handsome stranger on the beach, who is owning who she truly wants to me and building her life up around that.

Now, just watch me.

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