Are You a Writer?

Photo of an alley taken at night with streetlights illuminating it and several windows on the buildings on either side glowing with light. Pink-and-purple filter over image. White text in the centre that reads, "Are You a Writer?" Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

You could write every day. You could write every other day. You could write once a week. You could write once a month. You could go years without writing. You could have no set schedule for writing. You could stretch out your writing schedule, see how far it bends before breaking. You could pause while writing to check your phone, or you could huck your phone across the room while writing about it.

Nothing makes you more or less of a writer. This title does not need to be earned. It may be found. It may be claimed. It may have always been here, waiting for your acknowledgement. If you want it, you can have it, no questions asked. You do not need permission.

A writer is a person who writes or wants to write, with or without consistency, a person who feels that the word “writer” applies to them in some way or another, a person with the desire to string words together, a person with a longing to express what needs to be expressed.

A writer is a writer is a writer, and no one can determine if a writer is a writer but that writer themselves.

On No Longer Being a “Bad” French Student

Photo of a croissant with some white sugar powder on it sitting on a plate on a table with wooden slats.

I recently moved to Montréal and ordered a croissant in French. I was nervous, surrounded by flawless French speakers, thinking I would stumble or get confused and have to revert to English, but I didn’t!

I was intermittently homeschooled and in and out of the school system as a kid. No one in my family spoke French, so I didn’t learn it while at home. When I would go back to school for periods of time, I was always super behind my peers.

Unfortunately, I had some negative experiences with teachers refusing to help me catch up and singling me out in front of my classmates. I have a distinct memory of a French teacher yelling at me in front of the whole class for not understanding her, even though I was trying my best.

Generally speaking, I excelled at school, but when it came to French, I was just too far behind. I developed a sort of complex about it, hating French class because it always made me feel unintelligent, overwhelmed, and ashamed.

Coming back to learning this language as an adult has, in contrast, been such a positive experience. I’m so glad I decided to try again. I go at my own pace. I do a little every day. I have a teacher who is patient and never makes me feel bad for not understanding. He just goes slower, explains more, or finds another way to say something.

I’m also focusing on conversational French and the practical stuff I’ll need rather than getting bogged down by complex grammatical rules right off the bat.

What a radically different experience this has been. I no longer feel ashamed, not smart enough, or like I lack the ability to learn. I was never a bad French student, I just wasn’t given the conditions to do well. I have those now, so I’m doing well. Who knew!

Sometimes, it isn’t you, it’s the system. You likely aren’t a “bad learner,” but someone who is struggling because of your circumstances and an inflexible system that lacks an understanding of and compassion for those circumstances. Are you bad at a subject, or are your learning needs just not being met? No one should make you feel ashamed for struggling to learn, especially not an educator! It is quite literally their job to help meet your learning needs. If that’s not happening, then it’s on them or the broader system they’re working with, not you.

You may need a different system, educator, environment, pace, style, or approach. Don’t give up! If I can start relearning French and actually enjoy it, there is hope for you too.

Wait Time

Photo of a dirt road with grass and trees on either side and a truck with lit-up headlights at the end. Blue filter over image. White text aligned left reads, "Our lives are so short, and yet we spend so much of our time waiting." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

A big part of life is about waiting. A big part of life is about learning to be patient. You can’t always get what you want, and you certainly can’t always get what you want right away. If what you want is coming, you’ll have to learn how to wait for it.

We wait in line. We wait for the school year to end. We wait for our lease to be up. We wait for the right time to speak. We wait for the night to pass. We wait for the morning to come.

Our lives are so short, and yet we spend so much of our time waiting.

You have to get comfortable with the wait. You have to learn to be patient. Patience is a virtue, but not one of my virtues. And yet, I wait. I wait because I have to. The universe gives me no choice in the matter.

There’s a lot to be found by waiting, a lot to learn while waiting. There are lessons you can only gain from waiting.

There’s growth that happens while waiting, quiet growth. Not the kind you can measure against the wall, no, the mark won’t move, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. While waiting, you might feel like nothing is happening, but really, you are transforming. Like ingredients in a crock-pot, you’re a meal that’s slowly cooking.

There’s value in waiting, as annoying as it might be. These wait times are mandatory. You must go through them. You cannot rush off to the next thing. You must pause. You must wait your turn. You must learn the lessons only waiting can give you.

You will come out the other side of these waiting periods transformed. I guarantee it. How and in which ways? You’ll have to wait and see.

Moving on From Creative Projects

Close-up photo of two dead flowers lying facedown in the dirt, with some sticks, bark, and a few little green plants around them.

You are allowed to take breaks. You are allowed to pause. You are allowed to go on a hiatus from a creative project. You are allowed to abandon that project entirely. You are allowed to shift gears. You are allowed to leave things unfinished.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are or the project is a failure. Maybe it was never meant to be finished, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be done so quickly.

Maybe you were meant to learn something from this project. Maybe you can apply these lessons to the next one. Maybe you were meant to develop some skills. Maybe you were simply meant to have this experience.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do for a creative project that isn’t working is just let it go.

Even if you move on, you have not wasted your time. Art is never a waste. Allow yourself to move forward. Leave the guilt behind.

Thinking about all my abandoned manuscripts, the books I started writing before I figured out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I will never finish them, but they are still valuable. They helped me become the writer I am today.

Thinking about my old YouTube channel, which I poured passion, creative energy, and hundreds of hours of my time into. I decided to stop being a YouTuber, but I carry the lessons and skills that gave me into my work today. I wouldn’t take it back. I wouldn’t undo it.

Everything that came before has been a part of my creative path. A creative path is messy, leaving all kinds of debris on its shoulders and in its wake. That’s all right. That’s how it should be.

You Don’t Need to Have a Brand

Photo taken out of a car window that's covered in water droplets of a storefront with an open sign in the window and several framed pieces of art on the walls within. Pink-and-purple filter over image. White text aligned left reads, "You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine.

Late-stage capitalism and social media are impacting our relationships to ourselves and our art. We are encouraged to commodify, label, and measure the success of our creativity.

If we don’t have a large audience for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t make money from our art, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t have a defined brand or theme for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists.

We haven’t.

Feel free to experiment, get weird, and try different things. Don’t feel like you have to stick to creating something you don’t like just because it’s a part of “your brand”. It’s probably healthiest to stop thinking of yourself as a brand.

Creativity likes flow, freedom, experimentation, messiness, and room to breathe. Creativity doesn’t like confinement, pressure, rigid expectations, commodification, and, um, capitalism. Don’t kill your creative process with branding. Don’t try to label and define something just as it’s trying to be born.

Let yourself fuck around. Start new projects and abandon them. Spend your time creating what you want rather than what you think the world wants from you. Don’t get stuck making the same thing over and over just because other people like it.

Art is not always straightforward, presentable, and easily consumable. Not everything you create has to be made for consumption. Not everything you create has to resonate with an audience. Art can exist for its own sake. You can make it just because you want to.

If you’ve been feeling pressure to create specific things in certain ways, if you’ve been feeling blocked, try doing something completely different. Step outside of the confines of what you normally make. Experiment. Don’t worry about how it will be received, and know that it doesn’t have to be received at all. Don’t worry about the final product. Allow yourself to get lost in the process and see what happens.