i’m a writer…?

In my new job, I’m surrounded by young visual artists, many of whom are working on their writing. At a staff meeting last week, we were asked to consider the concept of ’the writer’. What does a writer look like? Where are they, and who is around them? Next, we were asked to recall the last time we wrote, and visualize that scene – where we were, who we were with, the sounds around us, etc.

The exercise was telling; for most of us, the scenes of ‘a writer’ and ‘ourselves writing’ were quite different. One woman pictured a Stephen King-type character, drafting a bestseller on a typewriter in an old study filled with mahogany furniture and leather-bound books.

My concept of the writer was more bohemian; philosophers in Parisian cafes recording their observations on human nature, art, and politics. Though this image morphed into a modern-day version of me, it still didn’t match where I actually last wrote: my previous job, a place I was unhappy in, drafting a blog post on my work email between meetings and daily duties.

Writing got me through the day.

a collage

As I shared in my last post, I left that job a few weeks ago, largely because I had little creative juice left at the end of the day to pursue my other loves – those endeavours known and unknown, longing to be explored.

My new position doesn’t require much writing, but I’m surrounded by creative colleagues who are eager to learn more about my personal practice. And every time they express interest in my writing, I hesitate. I’m fascinated by this continual reluctance to see myself as one of these talented, artistic people!

Our meeting activity really illuminated how pervasive and insidious certain labels can be. But it also helped me realize that, when I’m composing a blog post, I am a writer. I’m choosing to write because I love to write. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I do it daily or how many words I type or who’s writing more or less. In that moment, I am a writer.

I could go further, but I discovered a post from my early blogging days that totally captures what I want to say. It’s a timeless reminder from 5-years-ago me to my present self (I love it when that happens!):

We are all creative.

No labels required.

wearing her heart on her blog

Last week I received a ‘Happy Anniversary’ notification from WordPress. In December 2012 I created my account, though I didn’t actually post till the following month. Blogging still feels like a recent endeavor; certainly not something I started five years ago! I continue to meet new bloggers and friends, and learn more about myself as I write my own process.

An anniversary is always a particularly good time to reflect. There’s no question that blogging’s opened up my life in many ways, and for that I am truly grateful. But at several points along the way I’ve thought about taking an extending break, or even quitting entirely. I’ve often felt over-exposed and vulnerable. Or, I’ve put so much pressure on myself for posts to be perfect, that I’m exhausted before I even start writing!

So for 2018, I’m asking myself: can I re-make blogging a joyful priority?

Back in my early WordPress days, I would read articles with advice on blogging. These were instrumental in helping me understand the platform, and I did learn some useful tips. But I soon realized that I needed to form my own blogging conventions, appropriate to my life and the nature of my writing.

sonia picard’s ‘technicolor durga’

For example, I’d read that to gain readers and followers, it’s important to post frequently. This doesn’t work for me. Given that I mostly write about personal topics, it would be too emotionally taxing to continually write about my inner process. To post for the sake of posting wouldn’t be authentic, especially if I was motivated by the sense that I ‘should’, or the desire to have more followers. (‘Should’ automatically invokes resistance anyway.)

In social media, it’s generally accepted that more followers = better. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I quite often ask myself: why? What is the deeper need there…why does it matter? Will it mean something when I’ve hit a certain number? Will I feel more validated? (Actually, I’m not overthinking it. Without mindfulness, ego runs amok.)

I try to view all this with self-compassion and understanding. Of course it feels good to receive likes and follows! It’s hard to not make it about other people. We don’t live in isolation; we’re in a relational, hyper-connected world. I am choosing to share my thoughts on the Internet, after all; others are participating.

And for many of us, blogging is perhaps the only arena we feel most understood. Connecting to kindred spirits across the planet is amazing, and one of my favourite things about this medium. The likes, comments, and follows do mean something, when they’re authentically given and received.

But as soon as I’ve made it solely about other people, blogging loses its spark. When it involves comparison and perfectionism, it becomes heavy. A blogigation.

Writing the perfect post isn’t possible. There will forever be tweaks and adjustments to improve it. Someone else will have better photos, more likes, be making money off their blog, etc. Whenever I find myself questioning whether I should continue, I remember that in the actual writing process, time stands still, or flies by. That in itself is the purpose, the goal. That is creativity. There aren’t many activities where I can lose myself in this way, and it’s something to hold on to.

For 2018, I’m going to ditch the pursuit of perfectionism – not just with blogging, but with life in general. Priorities can be re-invented and reinvigorated with a new perspective. My tagline here is ‘wearing her heart on her blog’, and I’m going to re-commit to my heart being the guiding principle in all matters.

Happy Anniversary, new moon, solstice, and new year! And thank you for reading. ❤

just. keep. writing.

Writer’s block is an enigmatic phenomenon. I could be out for a walk, on the bus to work, heck even at work doing my job, and in under a minute I’ll mentally write an entire blog post. The words and ideas stream in so fast I can’t possibly record them, but I promise myself I will later. I’ll remember this, I think. But when I sit down to write – nothing.

Earlier this week, my colleague – an amazing poet and teacher – spoke to a group of high school students visiting our university to learn more about our creative writing program. (A post on ‘worlds colliding’ should follow this one, as the students’ teacher is coincidentally my best friend, who now lives south of the border.)

I attended the session, but didn’t expect to be so personally impacted. When I was in high school, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t a thing. I remember English classes and learning about form, structure, and grammar…and we did do some writing…but for the most part, creative expression wasn’t truly nurtured or celebrated.

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

I can’t help but wonder how different my younger years would’ve looked, had I been encouraged to experiment with all forms and genres in writing. If studying the craft had been presented as a valuable, worthy calling.

Of course, there’s no real point in going there. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘what if’s, thinking we were somehow shortchanged in our past. But we can’t really know how things might’ve otherwise turned out. Maybe in the end it wouldn’t have made much difference.

My poet friend was so inspiring in encouraging the students to express themselves, and I ponder why writing – a process that can literally be a life-saver for some – often remains so elusive for those who love it most.

Is it vulnerability? Putting ourselves ‘out there’ in any capacity can be intimidating…but with writing, it feels heightened. It’s our heart and soul we’re baring, opening ourselves to others’ perceptions and projections. We tell ourselves not to get caught up in likes, follows (or unfollows), and comments…but how can we not be impacted by those things?

Is it perfectionism? We might think we don’t have time, or that we’re too stressed, to write. But maybe it’s fear: fear that our written word will never look as great as we hope and envision. Fear that someone will make a negative comment, or we’ll sound pretentious or get it wrong. Or, maybe worst of all – that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

Blogging breaks are sometimes necessary…but I am feeling the creative muse’s call – no, order – to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be blog posts; it doesn’t have to ‘be’ or look like anything. It can just be for me.

When it comes to nurturing our passions, there is always time. But it is on us to carve it out. Fortunately we now have the world of WordPress, where everyone can express themselves to their heart’s content! It’s not too late.

For all those sensitive people so attuned to the reactions of others, I say… I get it. Express yourself anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re not experienced or published or getting paid for it. If you’ve found something that gives you even the smallest hint of joy, DO IT. Don’t even question why.

It is meaningful, it does matter, and it is making a difference. Just keep writing.