Painting and Prose by Janet Whittle Freedman


Joan Didion

I was recently reading Joan Didion’s book “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. The essay entitled “On Self Respect” hit several notes with me, especially her reference to “gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness”.

This is a self-accusation I have often made for it seems that however much I have painted and written, I had not given myself over to it in a way that the work calls for. I can see the many, many times that I had been lazy or afraid, too casual, unfocused and wasteful. The obvious questions arise: What are you waiting for? When will you begin? Will you feel sad or cheated when you are much older woman that you didn’t do what you could have done when you were far younger?

As a result I began to immerse myself in ways I haven’t before, making lists of projects and ideas and setting reminders to review weekly, booking blocks of time for creativity on my calendar, making a commitment to myself to paint and write on the subjects that “speak” to me even if they don’t appear to be economically rewarding.

I enrolled in several writing classes which exposed me to writers I had not experienced and pushed me to produce weekly instead of drowning in procrastination or self-editing criticisms that are the murderers of creativity. I work at giving up all the considerations that my mind produces for not stepping out and being the writer and artist that I am. I am certain that on my deathbed I don’t want to mourn that I left gifts unfulfilled.

**Update 3/18/2020 – This is a continuing battle. Life intervenes. The mind never stops trying to stop us.