“How do you begin? The answer is simple: you decide to. Then you push back your
sleeves and start … It will be completely awful. It will be unreadable
[excrement]! You won't have a clue how it will amount to anything, ever. And to
that, I say, Welcome. You just do it anyway.”
— Anne Lamott
This wasn't an easy post to write.
I’ve been working too hard, running too fast and too long and burning out.
For some reason, though I know my tendency to try to take in too much and
over-think things to death, I still believe I have to catch all the good stuff.
And when I'm a one-man show in control of all my issues, then I'll be able to
slow down a bit.
Does trying to control your issues only prove you have "control
Be anxious for nothing…
I'd say I had a breakdown this week, but the truth is less dramatic. I've been
broken down in the writing department for a good six months. I'm not exactly sure how it happened. I started an editing business and the writers group, but two years in and I'm still only infrequently
dealing with my novel–the book I claim to love and from which I've gotten all my best material for helping frustrated writers.
The soup grows thicker…
Despite so many attempts to rededicate my life (remember those little commitment cards? maybe that's what I need.) and despite untold recommitments to my own advice to write every day, it seems the stronger the impulse gets to go back to this wicked novel, the stronger my desire to flee.
Thanks to Joseph Campbell, I know that cave I fear to enter holds the treasure I seek. But I'm still not going.
I don't want to be vulnerable like this and share that I'm frustrated. But even more, I
don't want to share the true source of my frustration….which appears to be my choking fear of
I recently started running regularly again (probably another subtle way to avoid writing). I told myself I didn't have to
run fast, I only had to keep moving. There’s definitely something important
there. I need to do less. Think smaller. Quit trying to control so much.
But there’s still the issue of the fear I'm trying to outrun. And until that's resolved, I won't be well.
Let me ask you, when you hear the word vulnerable, do you think like I do,
that it's weakness?
So why when we read someone who's writing with vulnerability do we think, Oh, I
wish I could be that strong? (need proof?)
Dr. Brene Brown studies vulnerability. She says that courage comes from the
Latin word cor, which means heart. Courage—“to share from the heart, from the
core”—is anything but weak.
I suppose the good news is, feeling this way means I recognize the herculean
task. I'm all-too-aware what writing this book requires. I don't need
restraint. I need encouragement to speak.
My opposition, what Steven Pressfield (his book The War of Art is essential) calls “Resistance,” it
all seems to stem from a core complaint: I'm afraid of what I don’t yet understand, and I pretend I don’t care that I
don’t understand. If I was simply ignorant, I could fight back with wisdom (i.e. "the fear of the Lord"). But
I’m not just ignorant. I’m also arrogant. I'm a spoiled mule, self-sabotaging instead
of opening my eyes and seeing God’s all-too-obvious care.
At least part of the trouble is, I've forgotten how to be a child. Simply eating from God's hand.
Though at 39, I do finally know a few things about myself. I know I fear
vulnerability in part because I fear being ordinary. And I've known unconditional love, been comforted and nurtured regardless of deserving it, and still I believe I have to be
"special" to be worth loving.
Somehow I'm still continually forgetting that it's the other way around and that it's being
loved that makes us worthy.
Unmerited. Undeserved. Unearned by any action I could ever perform.
I've told writers that our readers most need our story to fight back fear. I've compared a writers’ story to a weapon,
to silence the opposition.
And I know first-hand how writing that way, you may feel like you're dying.
And there's really no choice because staying silent would be an equally deadly killer. Maybe just a bit more slowly. The "quiet lives of desperation" kind of death.
And if we did die while writing for the only One we should be writing for, now that
would be a story….
And maybe even in this fearful place, I can en-courage both of us. If anything I can say to you can help at all, maybe it's here, in the encouragement to go ahead and just die. We do all desperately need to see someone giving up their lives for that higher purpose–scared witless maybe, but mindlessly sacrificing everything and throwing themselves to their wolves.
Oh, let's just do it. Yes, I feel that fear coursing through, constricting the throat, the ice in my veins locking my knees, souring my stomach, crippling all control. And I'm going to write anyway.
And as I do, maybe you and me together, can show how that fear that weakens us becomes our greatest chance at freedom…
And ah, yes! I'm remembering now… Thank you, God. It's impossible to ever write alone! All of this and everything is borrowed–ideas, connections, stories, metaphors–even the words! What exactly did we think would be ours to claim as evidence of our worthiness?
Without all that we can finally give up. And give back.
“There’s a strange paradox about writing. It is precisely this: There’s no
occupation in the universe that is lonelier, and that at the same time depends
more radically on a community, a commonwealth of other writers…. As lonely as
is the craft of writing, it is the most social of vocations.” — Walker Percy
I know that feeling inside, that knowledge of having something to say. It must come out. It’s
not going to go away. We must speak! It is our gift. Yes, we'll want to ignore it, run from it
at times, but it won’t leave us alone. It was put there for us to seek it and speak it,
and in the process of learning to love and fear it, to discover its higher purpose–to work in the change that can reclaim and save your very life.
Listen. You hear it as well as I do. And better, because you hear it differently. Just
show up and listen. And keep showing up. So many others are seeking that freedom with you and their journey is completely unique but universal too. This is a sacred tool
and if we'll put it to use in our craft, we may just come to know why it was put there.
But not before.
I will preach this gospel to myself: It's up to you to deny inhibition and be vulnerable. And get it out.
Fred Rogers was asked his thoughts about a shooting that had taken place. The interviewer told him the young man had boasted beforehand about planning “something really big.”
Mr. Rogers had hung his head. “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really little tomorrow’?"
Do something little with me today. Show up and write.