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I’ve been going through a thing recently. I’ve written about it on the blog here and there, in various iterations, but it’s really all coming, I’ve realized, from an overwhelming desire to simplify.
I’ve been struggling, too, with this growing desire to simplify my writing, to hunker down and figure out what I really and truly want to write.
I’ve loved the last several months of blogging. It’s kept me writing during an extremely busy and tiring season of my life, which is one of the reasons I started it. I also felt like I had a lot to say, and I was able to put many of my thoughts on paper, so to speak, which has been life-giving.
But I’m feeling the need to press pause on the blog for now. I may be back, but I’m not convinced that blogging is the writing platform for me, and I need some time to figure out what my platform might be.
I’m excited to see what’s next, albeit a little nervous to release myself from this self-imposed weekly writing assignment. And who knows, maybe I’ll be back to the blog sooner than I think.
Oh, and next time you see me, ask me what I’ve been writing recently. I know I’ll be needing all the kicks-in-the-pants I can get, and having to respond to your relentless inquiries should help.
The other day I was reading Real Simple Magazine, and I got to the section where the editors ask a question to the readers and print a handful of responses. The question readers had answered for this issue was “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you try?”
It garnered a range of responses, from being an astronaut to going skydiving, and while it was neat to read all of these people’s dreams, for some reason it kind of depressed me. There were some pretty simple goals in there; very few of them were outlandish or completely out of the realm of possibility. It made me want to get all of their contact information and write them emails saying “What are you waiting for! You can do this! And if you fail, at least you’ve tried! The only sure way to fail is not to even try!”
What is it about the possibility of failure that strikes fear into the hearts of men? I wonder how many of us live the life we never wanted or expected to live, purely because we were afraid to try what we truly wanted to do. We have this beautiful quality when we are young, this fearlessness that allows us to believe we can do whatever we want to do, be whatever we want to be. And yes, some of that is naïve, and we realize as we grow older that our dreams may have been out of our reach. But I think more often the world gets the better of us, and all the messages of “just get a job” and “you’ve got to settle down” and “you’re probably not going to succeed at that” drown out all of the hopes and dreams we have grown up believing could one day come true.
I get it, we have bills to pay, houses to take care of, children to raise. Life is busy, and often it’s just not practical to reach for the stars. But I don’t ever want to let my little to-do lists or my desire for stability to keep me from accomplishing the goals I’ve always had in my heart of hearts, the hopes and dreams that come to mind when I lay my head on my pillow at night. And I certainly don’t want the mantra “what if I fail?” to have its way with these dreams, to keep me from even entertaining the possibility of “what if I succeed?”
When I decided I wanted to get into writing, the only experience I had was in my journal. I was sitting at my desk at a music publishing company, typing the same names and numbers that I typed every day for a year into the same computer program I opened every morning at 9 and closed every day at 5:30, and I realized I needed something else. So I set up a meeting with a friend of a friend, who set up a meeting with the editor of a magazine, who for some reason decided to take a chance on me and let me write a few short articles for them (she may have been a bit unstable, in hindsight). And just like that, I went from journal writer to published writer. Maybe it was desperation, maybe it was confidence, maybe it was naivety, but I didn’t let any fears keep me from putting myself out there. And that small step has made all the difference in the world.
Nothing monumental has happened in my writing career since that day. I’ve plugged along, writing when I can and where I can, reaching out to new people and slowly gaining more experience. I’m still honing my craft, still finding my place in the world of writing, but ever since that day my editor took a chance on me, I’ve been a writer. And I know that for the rest of my life, I will be a writer, no matter what that looks like.
I don’t want to teach my children that they will be whatever they want to be when they grow up, that they will definitely be successful at whatever they put their minds to. But I want to teach and show my children that while failure is a very real possibility, fear of failure shouldn’t be an excuse. We will fail in life, that’s a certainty. But in order to succeed, we at least have to try.
Maybe it’s time for you to ask yourself, “If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I try?” And then maybe, if you’re feeling fearless, it’s time to throw out that part about knowing you wouldn’t fail, and go ahead and try it anyway.
I’m reading The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg, and a couple of things she says in it really resonated with what I’ve been thinking and feeling about writing recently.
I mentioned before that I was scared when I had my other blog, and I want to strive to be really honest this time around. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still scary. And I guess what she helped me realize is that it should be scary, writing, if we are doing it correctly, because we are not avoiding the things we are afraid of.
“What we avoid corrupts and deforms us—we are always twisting away from it. And it shows in our writing, in the way we sit and walk.”
So if I’m avoiding things in my writing, whether it be because they are too true, or hit too close to home, or are too scary to think about or put out to the public, I’m being corrupted in a way by that avoidance. If I’m constantly skirting the real issue, the deepest, most meaningful things in life, because they are too hard to write about, it will come out in my writing. People can see through walls we try to put up, in life as well as in writing, at least if they are paying attention.
Even as I write this, I’m thinking about all of the deep, true things I could write about, and it scares me a little. A big part of me wants to ignore them, to write above them, around them. I can be entertaining with surface level writing, and maybe I can even go a little below the surface to keep people engaged for a while. But really, who wants to read that junk? The reason I even started writing almost fifteen years ago (What?!?! Talk about scary) was to have an outlet to talk and think about the real stuff, the stuff I thought none of my friends wanted to talk about or know about me, my deepest darkest thoughts and secrets (like any good high school diary should be). So why, now, should I betray those first desires, that first decade or so of writing that was only ever for me, precisely for my deepest and scariest self?
There are enough people in the world writing just to be heard, standing on top of hot-button subjects and giving their boxed-up opinions about them. And I guess there is a place for them. But I want my place as a writer to be in people’s hearts, and in order to do that I have to write from my heart, from what is really going on inside of me. I don’t want to twist away from the real things. I want to write truth.
(Some of you may be wondering, “Is she ever going to actually start writing about all of these things she keeps talking about writing about?” Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out now, won’t you.)