Finding yourself again


Dear Artist,

A subscriber wrote, “I grew up in an environment that did not stimulate creative development. Nevertheless, in adolescence I was a prolific writer. But suddenly I stopped. I remember thinking that what I wrote wasn’t any good, and that I shouldn’t write any more. I put everything I wrote into the garbage. I don’t know why. Now ten years have passed and I haven’t written anything. What I find curious is that I still remember the pleasure the writing gave me, and being frequently in a state of ‘flow.’ I would like to recapture that same pleasure, the creativity that I had, and begin writing again. I don’t know exactly where to start and don’t have a clue if I’m on the right path. Any suggestions or advice?”


“Sierra Sky, Breton Tuna Boats”
oil on canvas
by Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947)

Thanks for that. In order to rekindle your love and perhaps your proficiency you have to understand what went on. In your teenage innocence you wrote because it gave you joy. Then your restrictive environment kicked in and gave you the excuse to stop. You destroyed your stuff because your discipline was external. You must now internalize your discipline. Actually, this adolescent action-reaction is commonplace. While many flames are permanently snuffed, they need not be. Some folks figure it out and end up loving again.



“Sierra Pass”
oil painting by Edgar Alwin Payne

Here’s how they do it:

Allocate a writing hour for every single day.

Write whatever holds your interest or takes your fancy.

If you can’t think of anything to write, write anyway.

Work for no other reason than to give yourself joy.

Bring in the wisdom of all your fallow or waste.


oil painting by Edgar Alwin Payne

In your spare time read the admired writing of others.

When you think you’re getting it right, rewrite it.

Share your efforts only with a trusted friend.

Look for the gleams of personal style and go there.

Allow yourself to fall in love with the process.

Archive your work for your own benefit as you go.

Give this program some honest effort for a six week period. I’ll swear on half a dozen early editions of Webster’s Dictionary that you will find yourself again.


“Sunset, Canyon de Chelly” 1916
oil on canvas, 28 x 34 inches
by Edgar Alwin Payne

Best regards,


PS: “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” (Jim Rohn) “We find our freedom along the guiding lines of discipline.” (Yehudi Menuhin)

Esoterica: Substitute “paint” or “compose” for “write” in the list above. One list fits all. “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.” (Truman Capote)

This letter was originally published as “Finding yourself again” on July 2, 2004.


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“Artistically I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create. I want something, but I won’t know what it is until I succeed in doing it.” (Alberto Giacometti)



    • Catherine, you are absolutely right! “The Artist’s Way” and its “Morning Pages”, among its many other worthwhile guides, provide excellent help, as I know from my personal experience. Anyone engaged in any creative endeavor should have and use this book.

      • Catherine and Marsha, I was part of an “Artist’s Way” group and did the “morning pages” for many years. This started me on the writing track. Then I found the Amherst Writers Group, they taught me to write from the heart. Now, am writing for myself and for the joy of it. :-)

  1. Melanie Hall Szyszkiewicz on

    The universe always send s message at the right time.
    This morning I was putting away some books, and pulled out a Journaling scrapbook , a vision board book of sorts, that I started in 2003, and flipped through the pages again , stopping at a loose piece of paper, which I pulled out and read.
    It was from April 2014, an event I committed to paper. I can remember the day the setting, where we were standing, my recent recovery from spinal surgery, all seemed so crystal clear, as my friend Rene looked into deeply my eyes and I felt a shock to my heart and soul….. he said ” you should write a book”
    I knew he was right, I had stories to tell.

    • Caroline B Smith on

      Oh, Melanie, I see a doctor within the hour about “what to do with your back.” I had spinal fusion in 2007, and I wouldn’t enjoy doing that again. I’ve been so down just thinking about it and hurting all the time that I haven’t accomplished anything for myself or others all summer. This MUST and WILL BE the beginning of finding that love again. Thanks to you and the universe!!!

      Caroline B Smith

      • Caroline, I hope you get this. I don’t know what is available where you live, but for some people the right acupuncture practitioner and some versions of physical therapy are very helpful. most doctors simply do not know about all of the alternatives. I hope you find what is right for you and that you enjoy your artistry.

        • Melanie, I feel your pain. I’ve had back problems for 30 years. Finally, after surgery, chiropractic, pain management, orthopedists, I found orthogonal chiropractic. Google it for tons of info on the procedure. In nine months of the most gentle adjustments I am back to painting, drawing, walking, shopping, dancing…with no pain. Best of luck.

          • I’ve been using a liquid magnesium product (it has a few other ingredients as well) called Karma here in Oz. It actually seems to work and I’ve had less pain. It might not be the whole answer but it’s good to have a referral from someone who’s really used a product. Also, I’m looking at debt propelling myself into a massage chair… hehe. Can’t wait. :)
            Re the writing: Picasso said something about painting being like 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. (Misquoting) However, if we simply pick up the pen… or the brush and start it makes all the difference… hehe.

          • Chiropractic treatment, Acupuncture, Vitamin D3, daily walk and yoga practice have helped me through my back pain. Think twice before opting for surgery. Blessings,

    • Caroline B Smith on

      Melanie, you said “The universe always send s message at the right time.”

      I just happened upon and re-read the letter on Finding Yourself Again and looked at the comments. What a moment of serendipity! I am scheduled for spinal fusion on Monday, October 3, 2016. All of the reply suggestions by other readers are so welcome. I’ve tried all recommendations other than acupuncture, but the MRI shows me exactly what has happened, and it does require surgery,,,,,,,,or magical intervention and creation of a complete new disk. And I doubt that that solution is very realistic. Artistic, maybe,

      So, thank you to you and to all the others who made suggestions

  2. Thank god I’m not lost.
    I knew way more than would be expected of a teenager when I was a teenager. I wrote poetry nobody could believe I wrote. In my early 20s I said to myself: Just go out and have a life and then at some point in the future start writing again. When that future arrived I’d walked out of a suicidal depression after watching hundreds of friends succumb to AIDS- having had to heal myself. What came out won me a Third Place Award from the National Library of Poetry.

  3. From the early 1970s:
    once too often
    © 2016 J. Bruce Wilcox

    today- a new thought came my way
    and though i knew it well- i heard it say
    so you’ve crawled back in your shell- to stay?
    until someone reaches out to you?

    unknown to me you came upon the mask
    left by my backward step
    and though you tried to reach behind to find-
    you knew not what- or why the mask was needed

    but those who had not heeded
    the warning sent out by the brain
    now feel the strain and escape
    is not unlike the rain-
    so often very gloomy

    with little room to move in

    you won your freedom
    but with that freedom came the pain
    known only by the loser-
    the chosen- not the chooser
    who was free to break the hearts of many
    aloof from any real feeling
    knowing not that i was kneeling on the ground
    waiting for the sound of your sweet breath

    it would not be found again by me

    and so you say- come out!
    but here i’ll stay- so go your way
    the hurt came once too often

    • How lovely, poignant and timely J.Bruce Wilcox…….and how easily the reader can inject him/her self into the fabric of your writing.

  4. From the early 1990s:
    cheers- to life… and death
    © 2016 J. Bruce Wilcox

    heartbeat time flows swiftly by-
    distilling within that certain pain inherent in understanding

    a depth of grief is felt upon a fellow voyager’s departure-
    somehow balanced by its magnetic partner- joy

    sorrow slips in and out as we move through- NOW

    accepting… releasing… death is present in every moment
    remembering… forgetting… every exhale

    death is difficult for those in fear
    life has the potential to be infinitely interesting
    death is simply infinite

    never-ending bliss is as absurd as eternal damnation
    a soul’s one concern is growth

    to be as god is to BE- all knowing
    still religions preach endless limitation
    our very existence expresses our connection to goddess
    yet the closest place to find them is within

    and when you find god/goddess
    you find your self…
    and you find yourself-


    • Curious to me is how much I like your writing. That is a form which I can usually follow for two or three lines and I want to fold laundry or something interesting. To me yours are very well put together, and that is after reading your other comments for the past few years. Thanks.

    • Marilyn Somers on

      Thank you for sharing your poetry, Bruce and congratulations on reciving such wonderful recognition.
      You’re thoughts reflect the conscious human experience I believe. My dear husband made his transition several years ago and while the loss of his physical presence took me to depths of grief, I knew that even though he was a young senior, it was his time to move on. I did feel joy for his spirit.
      I love your line “never-ending bliss Is as absurd as eternal damnation.” I’ve written it in my book quotes…with your name as author of course..

  5. I stopped painting for ten years. The reason, I told myself, was that I was sick of doing shows and I just wanted to go back to painting for myself, which I did when I started, painting for the joy of painting. I didn’t have talent, I told myself, I just couldn’t wait to paint, I loved it.

    Then I was told that I should show my work and I started selling and doing shows.

    It has taken me 10 years to rid myself of the feeling of what others would think of this or that. And I had nobody to show it to, and that didn’t seem like fun. I took a course in acrylics, and although I didn’t do much in the course, it started me painting again, away from the oils I used to love. Now I paint for me and just paint anything I see that I like. The joy has returned.

  6. Beverley Hanna on

    There is nothing like joining a writing group to get the literary juices flowing. Try to find a group in your area – preferably one that is focused on skills development. You can learn so much from discussion of your work and that of others, and the brainstorming is invaluable.

    Also, find blogs by writers who are also teachers. Work on their exercises and programmes, and you’ll find that even though you don’t notice it at the time, your work is improving.

    Finally, if you can afford it, purchase a membership to Writers Digest. It provides unlimited opportunities for learning, for sharing, even for publishing. As the Nike ads say, “Just Do It!”

    • Finding a group that shares same interest is a valuable source for support and encouragement. Thanks for sharing. I’m listening and making notes. :-)

  7. I love this article and the recommendations to find yourself again. I’m especially in agreement with the idea to “Work for no other reason than to give yourself joy” and “loving the process”. I’ve been on that journey to find myself, both spiritually and creatively. I think they are both one and the same. Spiritually I could only feel it, but creatively I could “see” that I’m now on the right path— making arts for the joy of it. I’ve been able to loosen up and let go of old ideas that no longer suit me, and embarked on self discovery with playfulness and fun. Thanks to support from other artists of kindred spirit and natural and beautiful way to discover one self. Love the paintings by Edgar Alwin Payne. Thank You for sharing this post. :-)

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