Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
On Father’s Day, I returned home from Camp Scripps, which is Scripps College’s signature retreat created by and for alumnae. It’s a celebration of creativity and community. Our motto is “Everything Possible. Nothing Required.” I’ve been attending for the past twelve years. This year’s camp was our first in-person camp since 2019. I came home drunk with delight.
But when I wrote about it in my journal, I sabotaged my joy. Did I just have a good time because I go to camp to get my ego stroked? an inner voice asked.
That’s an unkind and unfair accusation, I responded.
I backed away from that ledge and wrote, “The reason I go to camp is because I can be unapologetically me there. I can do all the things I love to do, and my Scripps sisters will celebrate with me. And I will celebrate with them.”
Growing up, my creativity was encouraged by some and tolerated by others. Deep down, a part of me felt embarrassed and ashamed of my creative expression. I dreaded being called a show-off, or worse, an exhibitionist. I believed that if I did and said all the things I wanted to say and do, I’d be scorned.
But at camp it’s not a problem to be who I am. Or, more specifically, it’s not a problem to show up as an accomplished and curious creative person. Camp is filled with fellow raging (in the best sense of the word) creatives! And that’s why I love it. Not because my ego gets stroked—though we do swap compliments—but because creative play rules.
When it’s going well, my writing feels like play, and my chief complaint these days is there aren’t enough hours in the day. But this becomes a trap. I start to feel like I can’t work fast enough. It’s a challenge to slow down when I feel like I have so much to say. I remind myself patience is a virtue. And when it comes to creativity, not knowing what you’re doing can be an advantage.
I spent my thirties researching and writing an intergenerational family saga based on remarkable—and true—family events, beginning with blackmail, kidnapping, blindness, and more. I wrote a five-hundred-page draft. It was a beast of a writing project that I put away after ten years. It was bigger than I was, or so it felt.
After publishing my last book, I stumbled upon drabbles (one-hundred-word stories) and fell in love. They felt familiar and comfy, like my trusty Birkenstock sandals. They felt manageable. Accessible. I’ll do this before I tackle the messy family story, I thought. If I tackle it at all.
But now, to my surprise and delight, my family stories are spilling out into my drabbles! The parameters of this micro form free me in ways I never could have imagined. They grant me access to these stories in a thrilling new way.
Even so, yesterday, while listing titles of stories I want to write, I got scared. I wasn’t sure why, but I suspected inner critics. I tuned in, listened, and wrote down what they said. I call this practice “Write and Release.”
The first message I heard (and wrote) was: No one will care. And then: It’ll be boring. It’s not interesting.
I recognized my committee of inner critics. They sometimes address me in the second person (you), but yesterday they spoke in the first person (I). This can make me identify with them and believe what they say. The first-person voice lures us in, both on the page and in our own heads! The voice of my inner cheerleader also speaks to me in the first- and second-person voice. But yesterday it came out in the second person (you).
It’s okay, I responded to my inner critics. I hear you. Thanks for chiming in, but I’m still going to write. Then I went back to work.
But the committee wasn’t done. It had more to say: I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I feel like I’m cheating using a micro form to tell this huge story. There’s so much to tell. It feels overwhelming. I’m afraid of wasting precious time. I don’t have enough talent, skill, mastery. It’ll be a mess!
I took a break and then came back an hour later and reviewed what I’d written. Then I scribbled in all caps: “TELL YOUR STORY!” Finally, I picked up a thick, black Sharpie, and these words, spoken from a deeper, truer place, emerged:
You have a story to tell.
I know it feels hard, but it isn’t.
Focus on your story.
Be with your characters.
The critics complained: I’m not successful enough. I’m fooling myself thinking I can do this.
Do it anyway.
You want their stories told.
You’ve been given a story. It’s your duty and pleasure to share it.
Focus on your creative work, not the committee of critical voices inside your head.
The next day I shared this experience with my mastermind group. We marveled at how easy it is to engage with, and believe, limiting thinking. We all have insecure thoughts. And many of us take them way too seriously. Especially creatives. But insecure thoughts are like shadows on a wall. They’re not real. They’re the scary stories we make up.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that I have a choice which inner voices to believe. The best way to move forward with your writing is to channel your inner cheerleader, or soul. It speaks in a softer voice, but with time becomes louder and clearer. Here’s what mine left me with yesterday:
Get on with it. It’s not up to you to judge whether what you write is good or bad, or if anyone will care. It’s up to you to show up. To preserve your family legacy, to be authentically yourself. To speak truth. Period. End of story.
I sometimes think that by now, after having written three books, the committee of critics should be gone. Yet, here they are. Lurking at the edges of my awareness. I bristle thinking I should be beyond all this, but then I remind myself that these, too, are just thoughts. Not the truth. My truth is deeper and more loving than these critical voices.
The key is to sense when the committee is lurking. You don’t need to get rid of it. You just need to know how to relate to it. How to set their voices aside. It helps when you realize they don’t matter. When you get that, you realize it doesn’t matter how often they come, or how long they stay. You accept them, but you don’t revere, trust, or believe them. You don’t give them power. You see them for who they are: fear. You offer them compassion. Let them speak. Comfort them and move on.
Creative expression is enriching, healing, and fun. These are good enough reasons to do it. Welcome and listen to your creative impulses. Learn from them. They will set you free. And the freer you are, the more you’ll see. Your universe will expand in surprising and wonderful ways.
Give yourself this gift: Tell your story! My Write Where You Are writing circle is a safe, supportive, and fun place to do this. If you’d like a seat in my Summer session, now’s the time to claim your spot. 2 seats left! Enrollment closes July 8. Info and registration.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to chat.
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