I used to see my writing as a tactic to communicate something to others. I would write to convey a message, a thought, an experience. I would pressure myself to create content (as happens to so many who are new in business), and to know what my audience would like to hear from me. I filed all of my writing away into folders on my desktop starting with “Business” then moving further and further in with “Marketing” then “Writing” then “Emails” or “Blog Posts” or “Social Media Posts” (whatever the particular message was created for).
I took the heart and soul out of writing. I asked my writing to do so much for me. I forgot that the only reason I was writing was because I actually loved to write. It was not because I needed content or wanted to post more on social media. It was because I was a writer who had forgotten how to write.
And suddenly I could see, clear as day, why my writing had been so stunted. It wasn’t allowed to just be on its own. It couldn’t stand alone. I was not allowing myself to sit down in a café or my living room on a Saturday and just write and write and write until I was happy with what I’d achieved that day. The writing itself was not the prize, but the external validation or target it was being created for.
I had killed my joy for writing.
And so, I stopped.
I put away the pens and closed down the word documents. I decided that if I couldn’t write to impress, then I shouldn’t write at all.
Earlier this year I began following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I started slowly, beginning with the Morning Pages. Each morning I woke up and wrote three pages. Some days I would complain about the day before, some days I would write about the groceries I had purchased, and some days I would record my dreams from the night before.
The writing didn’t have to be interesting. It did not need to ‘work’ for me. I could be proud of myself for the very fact of writing. And so, the morning pages, which felt like agony the first few weeks, “What will I write about?” I wondered, “None of this is interesting!” I reflected, became a place of solace.
Each and every day I woke up and I wrote.
And then, something funny started to happen. When I got the hard part of writing out of the way early in the day, I started to feel proud of myself. I went from not writing to writing. Every day. And it didn’t matter what I was writing because no one else would ever read it. And so, my writing became freer, and my handwriting began to slip – words and letters merged into one another sometimes without an end in sight. And I didn’t care.
I was no longer writing for an audience. I was no longer trying to figure out what some unknown, external (and very judgmental) reader would think about my words. I had only to put the words on the page. And the more I put the words on the page, the more words that came out.
I began to trust myself. I knew that if I committed myself to the task at hand, I could do it. In this case, it was writing every day.
And where my blog had run dry, having done all the work it could possibly do with its dictatorial leader demanding it do even more without cause, words began to fill the page once again.
I realized that never in my life had I written just for myself. I always had the assumption that another set of eyes would read through the words that went onto the page, and so my words were measured. Careful. I did not want to be judged; I did not want to be scrutinized. I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted it to be profound. And in the search for perfection and external validation I could no longer create.
I had stifled my own voice.
And now, at last, my beloved voice has come back to me. My hands drift across pages and pages of notebooks that are filled to the brim with my words. My pens run out of ink each week and every week I begin anew. A new pen for my journal and a new notebook on its way to my door.
My computer delights in my fingers grazing the keypad as word documents fill up, one after another. Some of these musings are published for public consumption and some are saved away in a file for only my eyes to read.
And regardless of what fate the words will take in their everlasting lifetime; I feel proud that I have granted myself the privilege to create them. For in letting go of the need to produce or the pressure to share, my pleasure has returned, and I delight in the process of creation.
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