Becoming a Writer: A Journey Through Fear

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” -Karl Augustus Menninger

For a long time, I didn’t consider myself a “real writer.” I always made myself believe that I was just a wannabe.

To be the “real deal” you had to publish your work in many journals or magazines, have at least one book, be well-known in some sort of fashion, and/or have some kind of fancy academic credential and be actively engaged in a writing or artistic community.

Right?

Not quite, I’ve realized.

When people have asked me what I hope to do with my life, I have said, “I want to be a writer.” After being reminded of my goal, I would devise some kind of crazy writing schedule that I could never keep up with and then I would end up not writing, dreaming about writing instead.

I feared writing, in reality. I was afraid of putting words onto paper because of what others might think of them, what I might think of them if they didn’t live up to my silly, perfectionistic standards. The critics were alive and well in my head, and they were suffocating the creativity out of me, quip by quip.

It wasn’t until very recently that I realized that I am a writer. A real writer, despite what these critics have told me for years.

I have published, but not extensively. I’ve edited a book, but not yet written my own. I’m well-known among my friends, family, and colleagues, and now my Instagram travel community, but that’s the extent of my “fame” at the moment.

However, for me right now, all of this is enough. And it’s this, and more, that makes me a writer.

What I’ve learned is that I don’t need outside validation to “be a writer” (or to be anything else, for that matter). I can simply be one–even if that means journaling in one of my notebooks or thinking up some fun children’s book idea in my head and jotting it down. A book is a book is a book but not having one yet doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.

As I’ve learned, being a writer is more than a book, a publication credit, or an advanced degree. It’s a mode of operating, which includes the act of writing itself. It’s also a way of observing the world around you, seeing stories come alive in front of your eyes. It’s a way of tuning in to life, rather than turning away.

Being a writer is the act of embracing a creative force–one that requires observation, research, reading, and writing, itself. It also requires some time prioritization (so that you can actually write your great thoughts and ideas down!) and a firm F YOU to anything inside and outside of you (i.e. the critics) that tells you otherwise.

As a good friend recently blogged, you’re the expert of your own life. So, for me, if I want to embrace my inner writer, then I need to write my own story, whether that is though fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or blog posts.

What I’ve also discovered through this learning process is that in order to write my own story, I need to push through a mountain of ugly fear and allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others. Sure, I might get some push-back, but I’ll also be living an authentic life.

By allowing myself to really be myself, I’ve found boundless opportunities to express my creativity and write and engage with the world around me like never before. And it’s just the beginning.

With hopefully many years ahead of me, I look forward to living the creative life I once denied myself. And all it took was filtering out inner and outer criticism, fear, self-loathing, and turning instead toward my real values and joys.

Not an easy feat by any means. And the fight is never over, but it does get easier over time.

To creativity and beyond,

KP

Feature photo credit: A Visit in Germany / KP

 

On Writing about Being Tired and on Coming Home to Writing

On Tuesday, I wrote rather successfully about being tired. I didn’t think I could do it. And I almost didn’t. You know why? Because there was that little voice — my voice inside my own head (I know you have one too!) — that told me, “No, no, it won’t be good. It is pointless. Don’t waste your time with that.”

I’m glad I didn’t listen. I wish I would listen less often. And I like to think that I do listen less frequently now than I did before. Once upon a time ago, it seemed that I only listened to that tiny but powerful ever-present inner voice day in and day out (eek!).

I’m glad I didn’t listen to this voice yesterday because (1) I am trying to get in the habit of not listening to it and (2) I am trying to also get in the habit of writing, even if that means writing about being tired because I don’t have the energy to write about anything else (hey — it’s still writing!).

I have missed writing desperately. Sure, I have written emails, written notes in greeting cards, written reports and proposals for work, and written in all forms of regular everyday communications. But that is not enough — and it has not been enough.

I have felt such a void for the past couple years or so because I haven’t been writing very purposely in a creative manner. A part of my soul has not been complete — to be completely melodramatic. (The only way to live and breathe like a writer — ah, sweet melodramatic air!)

And for this longish while I sat around wondering: what on Earth is wrong? Why do I feel strange, down, trampled on and not quite so easily able to bounce back? What is this freakish void?

Likely I felt this way for different reasons, but a big reason seemed to be that I simply wasn’t attending to an important part of me that had previously always made me alert, alive, and present — my creative side.

It’s this creative side that many of us office folk let slide away like the mysterious crumbs and paperclips that cozy their way into our keyboard cracks, collecting where we don’t see them until that fateful day when we shake it out and admire with awe at what has been camping out right before our eyes each and every day.

While this is a part of us that we often push out of sight in favor of things like…work, family, work, friends, work, and all other manners of productivity and social normalcy, creativity is just as essential as any of these other parts of our lives, and arguably should be re-prioritized to have a lucky top-tier spot.

If we don’t make our own creative life a priority, no one else will.

Creativity is so individual, so personal that it is hard for one person or the next to really know what it means to you. Because of this, it can be difficult for those around you to understand why you must prioritize creativity as a part of your daily life and ergo difficult for you to see value in prioritizing it if no one else you care about sees the purpose in it. 

But we must prioritize it. Or at least, I must prioritize it if I want to feel my most alive and fulfilled. Without it I am fine, but with it I am great.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it through a story in her newest book, Big Magic:

“Three mornings a week, Susan awoke before dawn and, in that groggy hour before her demanding day job began, she skated. And she skated and skated and skated . . . It was a revolution . . . Please note that my friend did not quit her job, did not sell her home, did not sever all her relationships and move to Toronto to study seventy hours a week with an exacting Olympic-level skating coach. And no, this story does not end with her winning any championship medals. It doesn’t have to. In fact, this story does not end of all, because Susan is still figure skating several mornings a week–simply because skating is still the best way for her to unfold a certain beauty and transcendence within her life that she cannot seem to access in any other manner.”

Creative writing is this beauty and transcendence for me. It allows to me not only to express myself more adequately, but also to be the brave person I imagine myself to be and to feel at peace, at home in some strange and beautiful serenity garden, which I imagine to be filled with golden sunflowers turning with the sun’s skypath and with lavender perfuming the feather-light breeze.

It’s a lovely place — this creative space.

And I hope if you are searching for yours, or trying to reclaim a space for it in your life, that you find it.

May you have happy travels on your path to creative living.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. I highly recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for some inspiring, refreshing and invigorating reading. It is her book, in part, that inspired me to re-start my creative writing and begin it again in a more exciting, fun and less fearful fashion.

P.P.S. Sign up for monthly InspirationInspiration for Good‘s newsletter! Join the inspiration journey!

Feature photo credit: My Journals / KP