Creativity part one: goodbye guilt and farewell fear

Monday, 11 May 2015

This blog post by Kelle Hampton has had me bursting with inspiration this week, and for that I am very thankful. I even pinched a quote that she posted. Which is this:

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.” - Joss Whedon

***

Tonight is a night of the following: writing, a glass of wine, my bed, and a bag of Haribo. Not bad, huh?


Oh so relaxed.

I'm enjoying writing these pour-your-heart out posts right now. There are seven of them saved as drafts in Blogspot, waiting for me to give them attention. I've realised I'm incredibly lucky to be able to pour out my heart in such a way. To enjoy expressing my emotions creatively is a very good thing.

Sometimes, I read an incredible piece of prose, or I listen to a beautiful song, and I think: you are so lucky to be able to do that. To convey such emotion and depth and beauty in a creative way. I'm thankful for them. I am thankful for people who take the time to perfect their art and who take the risk of baring their souls to the rest of us. They add to the beautiful noise we create on this Earth when we let go of the fear that comes with being watched and judged and criticised.

I find it very, very difficult to apply the above admiration to myself.

I wrote last week about fear. Fear, I've realised, is a sneaky thing. It grows in your heart and tangles itself in your veins and then it tightens its grip, and then you can't move away from it. The more you struggle, the tighter it gets. I could talk about the effects of fear on multiple areas of my life, but today, I'm focusing on the area of being creative.

Of writing.

It's scary to admit that I love something this much. Okay? It's scary to sit here and sincerely tell you that I love this, that I have always loved it from the moment I could first tell a story, that writing is a huge part of my me, that I think I'd be an entirely different person without it. It feels bold for me to even think that I might have the potential to be quite good at it. Because to say 'Hey, this is what I love doing, this is what I put all my creative energy in to! Come and see!' is to open myself up for people thinking, or even saying, things like this:

'Who does she think she is? She's not even that good at writing anyway.'

(That's the voice in my head. I call her Shana. She's not very nice. My apologies if your actual name is Shana, I'm sure you're lovely).

The fear can grow in me so much that it not only affects my desire to allow people to see what I've written, but crosses over into my actual writing as well. It's paralysing. It stops me from even typing a sentence. Faced with a blank blog post, sometimes I stare and my mouth starts to go dry and I realise that whatever it is I might want to say probably won't sound the same when I write it down.

Then I start to think, well, what's the point? Why am I even doing this? And then in comes Linda, my brain's bossy and rather strict secretary (she only appears to tell me off, leaving me high and dry at moments when I really need to remember something):

'You should be doing something productive. Why on earth are you sitting there in front of your computer? There are toys everywhere! Your cupboards are dreadful! Let's not even get started on your washing basket. Stop messing around and start behaving like a grown up!'

Linda likes guilt trips. She likes to involve other people in them, too, just to make me feel worse. For example:

'How much happier would your husband be if he came home to a tidy house once in a while? Or if he could actually find his underwear in the place where we keep underwear rather than in a pile of clothes on the desk? MUCH HAPPIER, that's how much. He'd be a different man. You could use this precious time to be pairing up socks. Did you know that?'

And of course it crosses over to my toddler:

'Most mothers do something useful when their kids have a nap. Like baking nutritious, wholesome snacks for them. Or PAIRING UP THEIR SOCKS.'

It's all about guilt and fear, isn't it? Guilt about putting my time into this instead of actively choosing to serve other people. Guilt because I don't measure up to other (more organised) mothers. Fear of putting myself out there and being knocked down or rejected. Fear of pursuing something, only to find that I'll never get any better than this, and it will never go anywhere.

But no more of that. No more of the old me. The new me takes control. The new me takes her problems and deals with them. Like this:

Get lost, guilt: I am serving my loved ones by being creative. Let's face it: I am a creative person, which means when I am not being creative, I am grumpy and unhappy. God made me this way, no? This doesn't mean I get to prance around all day long living in a world of art and fairies and rainbows. Washing still needs to be done occasionally. But you get the gist. There's no point in trying to make myself like other women, because I am not like other women: I am me. Whether I like it or not.

When I purposefully make time for writing, when I actively cultivate creativity in my life, I'm happier. I see things from a different perspective. Writing helps me to deal with difficult things in life: it helps me to absorb stuff, process it, and move on, rather than trying to bottle things up. When I am creative, I am more caring, energetic, and excited about life.

Which obviously has a knock on effect to my loved ones. Who wants a grumpy but very efficient wife when you could have a slightly chaotic but really happy and energetic one?! (I'll ask my husband that later)

Another bonus for them is that I am capturing memories for us to look back on later. Sometimes photographs don't convey everything: the way you felt, how tired you were, the hilarious back story. Those sorts of things can get lost over time if they're not preserved. That's a good enough reason to do it all by itself.

Farewell, fear: Firstly - why does it matter if I never go anywhere as a writer? Why does everything in life have to be about material gain and success and one-upmanship? It's not about looking good in the eyes of men, it's about pursuing something that I love and think I am good at. If in ten years time I'm still blogging away and I haven't written anything more 'serious' than this, well, that's ten years of writing time well spent anyway.

Secondly - I will get better. I'm not claiming to be a literary genius whose every word flows like a song. Writing is a craft: you put work in, you get results out. It's like making furniture, or something. You tables might start out a bit wonky with one leg shorter than the others, but they get better and more polished with time. It's the same with writing.

Being so afraid of not being very good that I don't ever get around to writing is, frankly, stupid. You learn the art of writing by reading and writing. Just like you learn the art of editing by cutting out all the crap stuff. What I need to do is write now, and worry about polishing it later.

Take that, guilt and fear! The new me eats stupid and pointless emotions for breakfast.

***

So here I am, boldly saying: this is a huge part of me. My head is in writing mode pretty much constantly, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am privileged to be able to express myself, and to be able to lay aside fear and self-condemnation. I write for my emotional health, I write to capture a moment, I write so that I can do what I have written about before: to have life, vibrant, full, and good.

I'll finish this off with a little story: I got knocked back a bit at school. Secondary school is hard, isn't it? Harder for a girl who wasn't at all into make-up, barely reached five feet and didn't really fill an a-cup, especially when that girl also had glasses and masses of frizzy ginger hair. I always wanted to be a writer then, though, and my young self was brave enough, when asked during a PSH-whatever-letter-comes-next lesson what I wanted to be when I left school, to say 'I want to be a writer.'

Some boy said 'That's a bit boring, isn't it?'

I don't think I said anything in response, so I'll tell you now, kid: no. It's not.

I didn't write for a while when I left school. Years, actually. I kept my dreams pushed down deep in my chest because it felt like a safer place for them.

That is not a legacy I want to leave behind. A life of burying stuff because I was too afraid to do anything else.

If nothing else happens with this, if I write for a while and it never turns into anything or I change direction and this is the most public my creative work ever gets, I'd like my kids to get this lesson from it: pursue what you love doing, put your heart and soul into everything you do, work really hard, and don't be afraid.

Which comes down to leading by doing again, doesn't it.

***

One last thing - I have added Jen Hatmaker to my list of Girl Crushes (last week it was Amy Poehler ... she's still on the list. There's room for everyone). Hatmaker wrote an excellent book called 7 which is totally rocking my world at the moment. Anyway, she also writes a blog and a recent post made me fall in love with her a little bit more. It's called 'On Becoming a Writer'. You should read it. I mean, this part:

Just to be clear, let me see if I’m describing you right: You love to read, you always have. You think words are powerful and beautiful and devastating when used correctly. You have a story, ideas, a lot to say. These things rattle around in your brain and if you don’t get them on paper, YOU JUST MIGHT DIE.

Describes me in a nutshell. Really.

2 comments:

  1. Brilliant writing. Keep it up! Love that last bit too :) #MBPW :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading and your comment :) I will keep it up! x

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