On Writing and Creativity: Is The Angst Optional?

When I was invited to participate in a blog tour for writers I just had to say ‘yes!’
I didn’t expect that delving into my story of writing and creativity – the longing and compulsion to write, and the incredible resistance to actually doing it – would take me to a place of deeper self understanding, self forgiveness, and ultimately new motivation

I’m so grateful to fellow Martha Beck coach, Leda Asmar, for inviting me on this writing adventure! Read her exploration of her own writing journey is here.

 

Journals that tell the story of a life that's not been so bad after all...
Journals that tell the story of a life that’s not been so bad after all…

Do you have a creative calling – a dream – that you’ve set aside?

Could it be possible to pick it back up again? Perhaps hold it up and turn it slowly, finding new facets that beckon you to explore?

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”

That’s  favorite quote from George Eliot  (who was really a girl!)

For me that dream was (is) writing.

I started my first book at the ripe old age of eight. I’d been given a typewriter for my birthday (okay,  I’m dating myself!) and a sheaf of that erasable onion skin paper.

I lovingly inserted the first whisper-thin sheet and rolled it up. I banged out the title, and followed up with about a page and a half of single spaced writing.

Earlier that year I had won first prize in my Catholic School for my short story: “A Boot Dinner with Seaweed Sauce.” It was then that I knew I was destined to be a writer. With only a couple of years of reading under my belt I’d already devoured hundreds of children’s novels. It was time to write my own.

Alas, that first attempt languished away in some corner of my bedroom, as did my other fits and starts.

Even at that tender age I was consumed with self doubt and resistance. I already suffered the writer’s curse.

And besides, it was just more fun to play hopscotch than to sit down at that typewriter.

At ten I began journaling. Over the following decade I filled thousands and thousands of pages. Starting with those “My Diary” books with a little key, and later dozens of steno pads, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Those lined pages soaked up tears and patiently absorbed my lovelorn teenaged rantings.

I tried my hand at short and not-so-short stories. Lots and lots of angst-ridden poetry.

And then I realized:  I’m just average. I’m not a great writer. No one is clapping. Mouths are not dropping open in awe. No one is gushing at my stunning talent.

So I gave up.

After all – if I couldn’t be the best, why bother?

Malcolm Gladwell was probably still in diapers at the time, and the idea of putting in 10,000 hours did not cross my mind.

The journaling fell away in my twenties while raising kids and running my own business. Once or twice a year I’d dig one out and pour forth my truth, only to set it down again for months.

My old journals moldered away in a box in the barn.

And I moved further and further away from who I really am.

But the Writer’s Bug would bite now and again, giving me yet another excuse to berate myself with ‘loser’ language.

Later – much later, in my 40s – the writing called me back.

But still I struggled with my imperfection.

I’d sit down to write and realize I felt empty of ideas. I’d squish some words onto the page, and feel like crying as I read them. Such a pale candle compared to the authors I so admired.

Wish I’d heard Ira Glass’ two-minute brilliant talk on this very subject!

I sucked.

I cringed in writing classes and writer’s group when it was time to read my work. I’d apologize profusely in advance until the listeners were rolling their eyes before I’d read a word.

Becoming a Blogger

Once I learned it I kept saying I should start a blog. But full time school, a part time job and managing a household and high schooler (not to mention a very active social life, a girl’s gotta have fun, right?) provided continual excuses to not get around to it.

I finally started my first blog when I moved to NYC for a summer internship at The Nation magazine. It’s still online in case you care to read some silly stories of country bumpkin middle aged gal hits the big city.

Once home from the city I took a job writing and editing for an environmental newspaper and suddenly had found a new excuse to drop my own creative writing. And my spirit drooped once more.

A year and a half later as I looked around at a newly empty nest I found the inspiration and energy to start my next blog, Grown Up Mom.  Here I wrote stories on a variety of topics. I used it so share travel adventures and personal introspection, as well as milestones of my two daughters moving out into the wide world.

I took a class on memoir writing and pulled the moldering journals out of the barn to dip into all that memoir fodder. I fantasized about being the next Mary Karr.

I wrote blogs, essays, vignettes, (no more  bad poetry this time though.)

But I censored. A lot.

I edited like a mofo before pressing PUBLISH – because heaven forbid anyone would see the littlest typo, or worse, misread a paragraph and think ill of me.

My people-pleasing proclivities come out to play in a big way when it comes to sharing my writing.

And of course – that worry about what other people think is the death knell of truly good writing. 

In journalism school they taught us, “If you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing your job.”

I know this. But it still feels like pulling out my own fingernails when I imagine that pissed off person directing their ire at ME.

I’ve come to realize that this resistance to writing, this Block – it’s mostly about that fear of judgment. 

And sure, some of it has to do with plain old lazy habits.

The greatest writers all had secret tricks to get them to plant that ass in the chair and actually pick up the pen (or in more recent times get their fingertips on the keyboard). It reassures me to read things like Weird Habits of Famous Authors.

Even the prolific Steven King – one of my favorites as a young girl who consumed novels like candy –  even that excellent creator of character had to fight the demons to get writing.

So, I’ve learned that whether one is blessed from the get-go with extraordinary talent, or whether one painstakingly builds that writing muscle word by word, the point is to DO IT.

The stories stay buried inside if we don’t. And who knows – it could be YOUR story that might just change someone’s life.

My commitment? DONE with people pleasing.

Sure, my intention remains to inform, to entertain, and to inspire.

AND, I commit to dropping the censorship.

Yes, the foot might often be planted firmly in mouth, but at least you, dear reader, will not have any illusions about who you are dealing with:  A booty shaking, yoga practicing, fun-loving, partying, meditating middle-aged Mama, who ultimately just wants to connect, to heal, and to change the world with the power of story.

So – back to YOUR Dream!

What’s that thing YOU’VE known you were meant to do but somehow has slipped away? Maybe it’s a creative pursuit like writing or art – or maybe it’s something quite different.

It could be a brand new dream.

Oh, and you DO know what it is. It’s that silly thing that popped into your head just now that you were sure couldn’t possibly be it.

What’s one small step you can take to re-engage? What commitment can you make to yourself today?

 

And now to introduce you to three more writers:

Wendy Gauntner is contributing blogger at www.MondayLunchTrio.com, a weekly blog that marries family friendly recipes and life lessons. She’s a certified Martha Beck Life coach who likes to think she embodies old soul wisdom in a manic modern world. The rest of the time she’s a busy mom to her 11-year-old adopted son who defies every parental paradigm and inspires her to read parenting books others might never take off the shelf. 

Michelle Dubreuil Macek is a Martha Beck trained Life Coach who will dance you and your body into joy and vitality with healing movement coaching sessions. Say hey over to www.lifedance.me and say the magic words….Life Dance Me!

Julia Bushue works with recovering perfectionists who have trouble making progress on their goals, whether it’s finishing a project or finding a dream job. She writes on topics both specific and universal (from learning self-love to making good decisions) over at www.juliabushue.com.

 

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