I did not choose to be a writer; writing chose me. It took a long time to realize this. For years I believed I’d chosen this occupation. I sensed it might be hard. At times I worried I would not succeed, or that I might not be smart enough, or have anything interesting to say. I spent days, months, and years doubting myself and resisting my urge to write. I used to wonder whether I’d wasted those hours, but I now believe that I needed that time and space to think, and learn, and grow. I needed to struggle, because through my struggle I grew. And this continues to be true.
As a child and young adult I’d beat myself up with negative self-talk and criticism. I figured if I knew I sucked, if I criticized myself—and if I was better at berating myself than anyone else, then nobody could hurt me. I had no idea I was hurting myself. It took years to become conscious of this debilitating habit, decades to realize I was living with an internal bully. The harder life got, the greater the challenges, the more my inner bully raged.
Awareness of these patterns was the first step toward healing them. Life became sweeter as I made room for another voice inside my head; one that told me how creative and capable I was—not in an egotistical way, but with a gentle, confident knowledge. This voice said that I, like every other human being, am worthy of love. It assured me that answering my call to write—living my dream—was not only a reasonable and responsible thing to do, but also a mandate from my soul.
Over the years I’ve deepened my relationship with this voice, which I refer to as my “Wise Self.” She has become my mentor, guide, cheerleader, parent, and best friend. I’ve needed her a lot this year. Some of you know that my mom died in December 2012 and named me executor of her estate. A 20-month family dispute has added stress to my grief, and I’ve suffered debilitating anxiety. But surprisingly, my anxiety has been a gift. It’s required me to step up my self-care, love myself more, and have greater compassion for myself, and others. It’s shown me what’s really important in life. It’s shown me that nothing matters if you don’t have your health; you can’t play the game of life if you’re struggling to get through each day. It’s shown me that we each get dealt a hand and it’s our job to figure out how best to play it. Life is a creative process, and one that requires patience, compassion, and love. Love is what matters most. And peace. This is what I continue to learn.
Pamela Hale says, “The most-used strategy in reaction to wounds is self-abandonment. Another wound. So stand in the inner place of the friend and say, ‘Of course! Of course you felt (or feel) that way!’ This is a simple route to self-acceptance, the first step in healing.”
Life is filled with challenges and disappointments. Writers know this. But with a bit of courage and faith, you will realize you are not wasting your time or your life—you will know you are living fully. When obstacles arise, embrace them. We spend a lot of time and effort resisting things. Resistance means wanting things to be different from how they are. Acceptance is a widely misunderstood word. It’s not passive; it’s intentional. When you accept things, resistance falls away, and life feels more spacious.
Vaclav Havel once said, “It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” Outcomes are never our job. In writing and in life, all we can do is show up, do the work that’s ours to do, and then trust and let go. To do this we must first be present and available to ourselves and to our challenges. How we do this is different for everyone, but the process unfolds more gracefully when we are willing and able to support ourselves. It is much easier to answer the call to write, or to do anything for that matter, when your best friend dwells within, whispering, cheering, and prodding you to follow your heart. Unlike the head, filled with chatter, arguments, judgments, and evaluations, the heart speaks plainly, not with words, but with hunches, intuition, and gut feelings. Trust them. Trust yourself. Say yes to your call to write. I often tell my students the need to say yes to your writing is like the need to bathe—it has to be done on a regular basis. Answer the call. Start a conversation and see where it takes you. The journey is what matters. Let yourself wander and enjoy the trip!