Here's the truth: You'll never know what's in your heart unless you reach inside your own chest and squeeze it. It sounds painful. It sounds dangerous. This is mainly because it is.
In fact, the only thing more dangerous than reaching inside your chest and squeezing your own heart, is to go through life and never know what it's made of, or capable of doing.
To never risk the inherent dangers of: Art, with a capital A.
Whether you act, write, paint, cook, dance, sing or play an instrument, these are all seemingly fun and innocent but ultimately risky ways of squeezing the human heart. Who knows what might come out? Maybe you've always imagined you'll sing like Justin Bieber but when you do, nothing but Slipknot comes out. Or vice-versa.
Maybe you'll squeeze your heart in public and people will laugh at you or worse, ignore you and the painful act you're going through. Maybe your family will tell you not to. Maybe they'll tell you they knew other people who squeezed their hearts, and they died, cold, poor and alone.
Maybe you'll be completely disappointed by the experience and resolve to never listen to, let alone squeeze your heart, ever again.
From squeezing my own heart, I know this: It's a messy experience and there's a lot of bad stuff that needs to come out. I can only speak as a writer, because that's the heart I was given when they were handing them out, but I would say the first 100 000 words that came out of my heart were horrible, to say the least. They made little sense, even to me, and I was writing them.
But I sat in my chair late at night, steadied myself against the desk, grabbed hold of my heart, wincing, and wrung every single one of those words out, one by painful one. For a long time, it seemed like an exercise in futility.
Eventually, something changed, and I wasn't completely and utterly embarrassed by what was coming out of my heart.
I'm not saying that I have a magical heart now, filled with magical words, there are still some clunkers left in there, waiting to embarrass me at the most inopportune moment. And if I'm honest, there are days when it all still feels like an exercise in futility and days when there doesn't seem to be anything left. Sometimes, there's even an old familiar voice, somewhere closer to my head than my heart, that says, "Making art? What a horrible, stupid waste of time."
This is what I'm saying: I have seen people wait their entire life for the perfect moment to squeeze their heart, and that moment never came. I have seen people risk it all too late, be amazed by what they found, and cry over the time they wasted. I have seen people disappointed and sad and poor and more aware of who they are and what they are than anyone who didn't dare risk what they risked. I have seen people never know their own heart, and they may as well have never had one.
I am saying: risk squeezing your heart, because I believe there's goodness there, for both you and the world.
Sure, maybe it'll be made of stone.
But if you squeeze it hard enough, you'll get blood out of it anyway.