Lately, I’ve been excited about new clients, interesting editing projects, and an upcoming writing workshop on Bowen Island – 2018 promises to be a great year!
And yet a few days ago, I struggled with a nagging anxiety arising from persistent thoughts of “not good enough,” “not deserving,” “not belonging…” It’s a familiar, painful state that I’ve usually been able to challenge and neutralize fairly quickly. But not this time.
At the end of my work day, I took myself out for a walk, my go-to remedy when I’m feeling rotten. Just a few meters down the road, the message I most needed to hear came through with blazing clarity – “You need to get at your own writing.”
Couldn’t argue with that! I had been neglecting it lately. Between illness, the distractions of a legal suit that I’d been involved in (now resolved, thank God!), Christmas, a new relationship, I’d been barely giving my own writing the time of day
And then there’s Veronica, also known as my writers’ coaching and editing business. She not only wants my undivided attention on clients’ manuscripts, but is always demanding a blog, a social media post, an email response to a potential workshop participant – and what about that talk to encourage others to get at the book they’ve been dreaming of writing?
I love Veronica – she’s dedicated and committed, but she would take over my whole life if I let her. Here’s what I need to tell her: “Look, Veronica. I know I’m not doing enough marketing, but if I’m not writing, my whole life sucks. My client work suffers, my workshops slump, my creativity flat-lines, and I am well on the road to despair. If I don’t write, there’ll be no one to do any marketing. Capiche?”
That night, before going to bed, I resolved to get up early in the morning and get at my memoir first thing. Before meditation, before exercise, and especially before descending the rabbit hole of email or Facebook.
Then, later that night, in the wee wee hours, these words woke me out of a sound sleep:
“Come home to your writing.”
It was a message that went straight to my heart in its lack of blame, its generosity, and its eternal message of welcome.
I needed an invitation that transcended writing as a “should,” or an act of will. Having been a writer for hire for much of my professional life, I have developed the will and self-discipline to get at whatever writing I’ve been commissioned to do, and to get it done.
But what about writing with no deadline attached to it? What about writing that no one cares about except me, who has not always been the most faithful of stewards? That simple phrase, “Come home to your writing” told me that writing is more than an act of will. It’s where I belong. It’s my home. As someone whose peripatetic life has tended to create a chronic sense of exile, writing has always had a place at the table for me.
My writing clients will often tell me that their lack of self-discipline is the reason they’re not getting their writing done. I often refer them to the work of Steven Pressfield, who equates writing or any other creative endeavour as a fundamental, heroic act of a warrior: “Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue. By confining our actions territorially to our own thoughts and actions—in other words, to the work and its demands—we cut the earth from beneath the blue-painted, shield-banding, spear-branding foe.”
Steven is right. We do need to warrior up, to face the dragons of resistance, and to damned well sit down and write.
And I have come to believe that we also need to feel that writing is our home. A place of sanctuary that will always embrace us. A place that transcends our ambitions, our thoughts of what we “should” be accomplishing, or even our desire to write well. I believe that these words of the great poet and mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi, written about 800 years ago, have something to say to us:
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. This is not a caravan of despair. It doesn’t matter if you have broken your vow a thousand times, still and yet again, COME!”
Come home to your writing this year. Come home as many times as needed. There will always be a seat at the table for you.