When we become discouraged with what we’re creating (or trying to create) in the world, when we think that no one will care anyway, it’s SO easy to just give up.
But please, just pause instead. Take a breath. Read the words below that Martha Graham spoke to Agnes DeMille…. read them over and over and over again.
And remember… the life force that flows through and as YOU is a unique and never-before-seen thing. It’s not your job to judge it; it’s your job to keep the channel open and to keep listening.
Here is DeMille, recalling what Graham said to her over a soda at Schrafft’s restaurant shortly after Graham’s “flamboyant success” with the choreography of Oklahoma! (choreography, it should be noted, that Graham herself didn’t actually feel was very good compared to other things she’d done):
“I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”
“No artist is pleased,” Martha said.
“But then there is no satisfaction?”
“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”