Writing is a powerful thing. To me there is nothing more satisfying than organising words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and, in doing so, composing a piece that will hopefully touch or entertain its reader. In short: expressing what I want to say, and doing so as thoughtfully and eloquently as possible.
Writing has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I wrote short stories at school, enjoyed essay writing at university as well as journaling and writing poems privately. I even hope to finish a novel I'm working on within the next year or so, carving out time especially to work on it now that daughter N is starting school after the summer. No one save a couple of close friends know about this novel writing activity - or even about this blog in fact! - as I have kept my lips firmly sealed. Why? For fear of being criticised, fear of putting myself out there, but also for fear of being a disappointment (shudder).
Baring your soul - for that is what writing is - is a tricky business. What if people don't like what you do? (Help!) What if people do like what you do? (Help!). In the first case you risk feelings of shame and devastation; in the second the pressure to perform and continue pleasing. It is a catch-22 situation and both do the writer - and the writing - a great disservice.
Some excellent posts have been appearing lately on various blogs concerning creativity and the act of writing**. A lot of writers express a fear of judgement and some have been put off in the past by the judgements of others - even teachers at school. Others fear that they have nothing really important to say. The good news, I am discovering, is that the extent to which we allow ourselves to be influenced by any of these self-limiting fears is entirely up to us.
I am discovering that first and foremost, it is important that I love my own work; I do not need the approval of others to do what I do. This is a difficult habit of thought to change, as a great part of my life has been lived dependent on the approval of others. But with a bit of practice, I'm getting there. (To be clear: encouraging, constructive comments are wonderful and should be offered generously and welcomed warmly!) Secondly, there will always be those who like and those who don't like what I do. And that's just fine. No need to try and please anyone, let alone everyone (tough habit to let go of for a people-pleaser like myself).
I am changing my limiting thinking habits with the help of a wonderful book called The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, and would like to recommend it to all those writers out there who at times fail to believe in themselves and/or their talents and passions. Cameron has some wise words to say about the way we greatly limit ourselves and our creative abilities.
"We do not see our size. We do not view ourselves with accuracy. We are far larger, far more marvelous, far more deeply and consistently creative than we recognize and know.
We do not credit ourselves with what it is we can - and often do - accomplish. We are blind to our gifts; we are deaf to our voice. We do not see or hear our magnitude. Why is this?"(p.48)
Have you ever allowed others to curb your creativity (whether that be writing, painting, baking or some other creative activity) with their comments or criticism ? What has been your reaction - have you gone on, or given up? I would love to know.
**A few posts on this topic, in random order. If you have a post on this topic and would like it to be added to the list, please let me know.
Above the River
The Quince Tree (on the joy of blogging and the realisation of not being a freak after all)
Circle of Pine Trees (inspiring post on, amongst other things, the link between creativity and motherhood)