Alright. I am feeling quite strongly that I need to say a bunch of stuff about writing.
So I need a favor from you.
If writing is not the thing you have a tortured, obsessive love-hate-love relationship with, I’d love it if you would substitute something that is.
As in: whenever I say “writing”, you just go ahead and fill in whatever your “thing” is. Your secret love thing.
You know, the thing that — when you actually allow yourself to think about having time to devote to it — makes you feel elated and miserable. Joyful and terrified.
Painting, photography, dance, playing the mandolin. I don’t know. But you do. The thing you’d be doing if you had all the time and money in the world and didn’t have to tell anyone about it. Yes.
I am writer, hear me
I have been a writer for as long as I have memories of myself. But I don’t think I would have ever dared to use this highly problematic word until maybe a year or two ago — at most.
My relationship with writing has always been two parts fear to one part passion.
Me and my writing. A complicated, tangled shared history of shame and longing, and unbearable paralysis.
True, writing has been my salvation in the really crappy, painful times and my anchor in the good times. But the idea of maybe eventually getting around to telling anyone about it? Oh, not a chance.
The therapeutic side to the writing, the high of capturing just the right sensation, the power of being swept away by creative force … all of it outweighed — always — by the torture of having to say it out loud.
But I have a point to make here, beyond telling you about “my issues”.
I could — and I’m tempted to — write a complete history of this intricate nest of patterns. I could write an entire biography of disdain, cataloging my various resentments and hatreds.
Starting from the age of five when I declared one night at dinner that Isaac Bashevis Singer was a much better writer than his brother, to — oh, let’s see — yesterday when I went on a huge rant about New Yorker fiction and how much it sucks.
Let’s not go there, though. Well, not today.
I wanted to talk about what things shifted for me, both internally and externally, to get me to the point where I can tell you, total random stranger or internet friend, about my writing. About the fact that I write.
You’re probably going, “I’m not stupid! I can read that you’re writing. I’m right here.”
You are right. Forgive me. It’s just that within my own messy internal dialogue, the fact that I’m a writer is a huge freaking secret, so I tend to forget about the fact that everyone already knows about it.
So what changed?
All sorts of things.
For one thing, I started writing noozletters. Then ebooks. By the time I started the blog, I’d already figured out that this was all about giving people the information they needed.
Information. In a form that just happened to involve words.
And since the focus was all on the content and not on the container, it freed me up to put stuff out there.
I mean, no one expects an ebook to win any prizes for literature. Most of them are awful. You read it for the stuff you need to know and you ignore the typos and the cheesy, embarrassing metaphors.
No one would be paying attention to how I was writing … that was reassuring. And anyway, I knew my material was solid. So I was able to convince myself that the “hey, I’m writing a book” part of it would be okay.
There I was. Writing. And — for the first time in my life — not diving under the bed at the thought of telling someone. Not apologizing. Not hiding my scribblings in a drawer. Okay, I still do that.
But it’s progress. Big huge crazy progress.
And I have to say that coming into my own as a writer — “owning it”, as they say on the west coast — is pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
It’s changed my business. It’s changed my relationships. It’s helped me get better at trusting myself.
And there are so many things I wish I’d realized a few years ago. Of course, if I’d realized them then, I wouldn’t have needed to go through this whole complicated process with myself, but you know what I mean.
What I wish I’d known. What I wish for you to know:
- That writing is healing. Regardless of how “good” it is in your mind. The act of putting thoughts and feelings to words is good for your soul.
- That I need to live my mission — and it’s not fair to hide what I know from the people who need it. Same goes for you.
- That comfort and support and the ability to sit down and practice your craft are all things you learn to access. Things you learn to receive. It’s a practice.
- That you can find comfort when you need it.
- That the tingly visceral full-body experience of feeling safe to creatively self-express will come back more often once you’ve known it.
- That each time you access this incredible sensation, it’s easier to conjure it up the next time.
An old dream come to life
Some of you might know that Jennifer Louden (yes, the super-famous super-sweet self-help author I’m always going on about) invited me to be kind of a scholar-in-residence at her week-long Writer’s Retreat this summer in Taos, New Mexico.
Her Luscious, Nurturing Get Your Writing Done While Laughing Your Butt Off and Maybe Crying a little Too Writer’s Retreat. For women who write (or wish they could dare to).
And I get to teach some gentle yoga classes too, just for some additional bliss/fun/fabulousness, as if I weren’t already loving every single aspect of this.
But mostly excited because I’ll get to hang out with a bunch of amazing women who are — just like me — showing up with all of their “Ack! I love to write and I also get totally stuckified around it” stuff.
I’ll bring my fear and my worry and my doubt, as will everyone else. And then Jen will zap us with comfort and magic and love and really great writing techniques. And I’ll do the brain-training stuff.
And we’ll all take that high-powered creative juice and express the hell out of life, the universe and everything. With love and honesty and compassion.
I’ve never had the guts to go to a writing retreat. But this is the one.
If you are thinking about maybe coming to the Writer’s Retreat thing, I should probably mention that it’s more than half full and that if you sign up by November 30th (Jen’s birthday) you save some money and get a coaching session with her.
Which is really like her giving you a birthday present — a fancy, expensive one — so I’m not really sure why she’s doing that but you should totally take her up on it. And wish her a happy birthday either way.
If money is tight (and man, I know), demand that everyone you know get together and buy Naomi’s Online Business School for you for the holidays (or in honor of Jen’s birthday) and then make the money to cover it.
Or whatever. Do the symbolic thing that needs to be done.
If you’re not saving like mad for the Writer’s Retreat, do it for whatever it is you need to do for your creative self.
Make it happen. Make something happen. Make that commitment to yourself.
Because the symbolic weight of saying yes to doing something with that beautiful, healing thing — the thing you have such a complex relationship with — is a big deal.
Because getting the chance to experience what it’s like to give real time and solace and attention and love to the thing that can feed you most … that is the most life-changingly great experience ever.
Your gift — even if it doesn’t feel like one — always gives back. The more you give to it of your attention and your patience, the more magical the results.
That whole “here I am being creatively expressive — look out, world!” experience is the stuff that runs successful businesses and happy relationships and healthy bodies.
No kidding. Let’s rescue some of those forgotten words.
Love, hate, write about it, go back to bed.
I’ll see you there. There? Here. Your writing, your pictures, your movement, your music, your art, your whatever-it-is.
Whenever you feel safe letting a corner of the world know that it exists, everyone here will be happy to come out and cheer for you (as loudly or as quietly as you want)!
Whether it’s in person (can you say “in person” when there’s a duck involved?) at Jen’s Get Your Writing Done Retreat, or here in the comments section or on Twitter or wherever.
It really doesn’t matter where.
The point is: Count me in as one of your fans. If you’re brave enough to create, I admire you already. If you’re brave enough to even think about admitting that you’re actually not brave at all, I admire you for that too.
You guys have been such a huge part of my process. I’m planning on being part of yours.