This short piece – just a half-dozen paragraphs – is by Chuck Palahniuk, the American novelist who wrote Fight Club. I’m sharing it because it strikes me as a wise and simple way of encouraging people who create to keep creating. Whatever you do, keep doing it, and ignore judgement. Your writing, science experiment, gardening, coding, community project, whatever. No matter what others think, if you have faith in what you’ve made, and the process of making it gives you joy, keep going.
This is Chuck Palahnuik’s story:
‘Almost every morning, I eat breakfast in the same diner, and this morning a man was painting the windows with Christmas designs. Snowmen. Snowflakes. Bells. Santa Claus. He stood outside on the sidewalk, painting in the freezing cold, his breath steaming, alternating brushes and rollers with different colours of paint. Inside the diner, the customers and servers watched as he layered red and white and blue paint on the outside of the big windows. Behind him the rain changed to snow, falling sideways in the wind.
The painter’s hair was all different colours of grey, and his face was slack and wrinkled as the empty ass of his jeans. Between colours, he’d stop to drink something out of a paper cup.
Watching him from inside, eating eggs and toast, somebody said it was sad. This customer said the man was probably a failed artist. It was probably whiskey in the cup. He probably had a studio full of failed paintings and now made his living decorating cheesy restaurant and grocery store windows. Just sad, sad, sad.
This painter guy kept putting up the colours. All the white “snow,” first. Then some fields of red and green. Then some black outlines that made the colour shapes into Xmas stockings and trees.
A server walked around, pouring coffee for people, and said, “That’s so neat. I wish I could do that.”
And whether we envied or pitied this guy in the cold, he kept painting. Adding details and layers of colour. And I’m not sure when it happened, but at some moment he wasn’t there. The pictures themselves were so rich, they filled the windows so well, the colours so bright, that the painter had left. Whether he was a failure or a hero. He’d disappeared, gone off to wherever, and all we were seeing was his work.’