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  • Leslie Tourish

Want to Make Art? Invite Believing Mirrors

It takes faith to magic a sliver of a thought into existence. Like a flame in a fitful wind, the idea can be extinguished by negative thoughts, dismissive comments, or feeling overwhelmed. Any work of art—a sculpture, painting, film, book, play, or song—that makes it into the world comes from a creator. But the creator is supported by the village.

I’ve always been inspired by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way series, self-help books for the creative individual. Julia knows how easily inspiration can die, and how much hard work it takes to persevere until you come to the end and say your piece is good enough. Never perfect, just good enough.

She writes about the importance of having people in your life who are believing mirrors. In The Artist’s Way, she writes about these “people who mirror us back to ourselves as powerful, strong, and in our most positive light. Our Believing Mirrors are valuable people in our creative lives.”

Without my own believing mirrors, my book would have been nothing more than a wistful notion. Sometimes believing mirrors are already part of our lives: supportive parents, teachers, or friends. But we often have to seek them out. When I was writing my book, I knew I needed a community. So I started a Meetup event for aspiring authors in my area. From all walks of life, they came.

One of them was Susie. Wicked smart and funny, she was an excellent writer of historical fiction. At one of our earlier meetings she said to our new group, “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to write books and become an author.” I liked her immediately. We did become friends, and believing mirrors for each other. Without my relationship with Susie, all the distractions of life could easily have dimmed my focus, and my book would have remained a neglected computer file and a nagging sense of failure.

Susie and I encouraged each other by sharing pages of our manuscripts, finding plot holes, and pointing out places for improvement. We became each other’s believing mirrors and the biggest champions of the other one’s work, especially when we were discouraged and filled with doubt. Because those dark days do come.

I wouldn’t have found Susie if I hadn’t taken a chance and asked the universe for more. It’s an old chestnut, but so true: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I love that energy. Being the student improves your odds of getting better.

Pick up an author’s book and check out their acknowledgments page. You’ll see the names of critique partners, editors, agents, publishers, spouses, children, parents, friends: believing mirrors. Sometimes the difference between art that gets made and art that doesn’t is the willingness to fight for and hold on to our believing mirrors, wherever we can find them.

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