Sunday, January 31, 2016

Writing Out Loud - the Dance with Fear, Shame and Showing Up

I have a long complicated relationship with writing.  You see, I want to do it, I love to do it - but I'm really terrible at it.  I mean, I've written a whole lot of stuff.  It just never hits home, you know?  One day, I'll write something that is meaningful and people will love it and I'll be adored and then I will be a real writer.

Last week, when I said something out loud to my partner about writing a story I'm writing and about how hard it is to write and how much I really wish I were a writer, I was taken aback when my partner responds something to the effect of "What do you mean you're not a writer... you've had how many blogs?"  On the outside, I said "Well yeah.. but I'm not a writer, really." and on the inside, I said, "Because, those blogs, I never considered 'writing', per say.  I'm not a writer.  I'm an impostor.    Writers say important things!  I'm just... playing around with a blog, pretending to be one. Like a child baking a cake with a toy stove, with the futility of a goldfish circling the bowl".

I took that thought, the thought that blogging was writing, and tucked it away into the part of my mind in which the gerbils are active on their wheels and I continued about my days, thoughts of writing percolating in the background. And then, because I'm not a writer, I deleted 3 blogs and moved all of their posts into my private blog.  The graveyard that holds the bones of 5 other blogs and 15 years of posts.

Then, sometime a few days later, while I was coloring my hair, I flipped on the bluetooth speaker and opened pocket cast.  I flipped through my unheard podcasts and settled on Danielle Laporte's Beautiful Writer podcast,  Seth Godin - Tribes, Blogs and Book Biz.

I'm listening along and Danielle says : "I look at everything I wrote before today, even talks I have given and I'm like Could have been better.  Wanna burn it.  Wanna move to the Ganges, shave my head and start all over.  "

I said - "Amen, sister.  Oh my fucking god, yes", immediately calling to mind every single character I'd typed in 30 years.  Envisioning the complicated webs of emotion and voice entangled together in the dark depths of the vault blog.  I shudder.  But - if that doesn't mean she isn't a real writer...

Then Seth said : "Shame is a dream killer.  Shame is a thing that will put out our fire."

My thoughts stopped dead.  Something clicked.  Shame.  The judgy criticism I felt for my writing - that was the product of my shame. Shame is a demon I am intimately familiar with.  Shame is built in tandem by the haunted and the opinions of people around them.  Once it's built, it polices passion and voice and corrals them into darkness.

 I allowed naysayers or lack of response to assist me in building an egrigore of shame that proceeded to cause such fear of continuing to offend everyone else that I talked myself out of writing out loud, almost entirely.  I'd go to write and all I could think about, as I put the finishing touches on whatever I was writing, was the embarrassment of being such an impostor that I'd make others read something I'd written, which, with the subtle manipulations of shame, seemed the most egregious of acts .  So I'd stop.  Afraid.

Seth said, "In the moment when we are doing important work, we are almost never feeling good.  We are feeling afraid.  We are feeling trepidation."  and "What we have to do is to give up on the idea on this idea that we're going to feel good before we do that thing that matters because we probably won't." "Stop fighting the fear.  Stop trying to make the resistance go away.  It cannot be done.  All we can do is dance with it."

I'm reminded that I am not a unique snowflake.  I mean, sure, I could write something unique.  But the experience I have of shame, fear and feeling like an impostor - that's human, not uniquely Carrie. It's not any indication of wrongdoing.  I am blessedly normal in that other writers that I admire have experienced the same shame and fear.

Art is in the display, in some way, of things that have meaning on a human level.  All the stuff that has meaning is on the inside and accustomed to being protected so it feels really vulnerable to put it on the outside.  It is normal to feel afraid.  Because it's so vulnerable, when someone criticizes it or when it doesn't get a response, it feels like a rejection of the most personal parts of self.  Shame is a tempting go-to.  Despite that, not in absence of that, an artist continues to show up.

Photo : Shame / pixaby / Public domain

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