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.

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.

passion, resistance, and kundalini yoga

I’m most motivated to write a blog post immediately after I’ve published one. I feel like I’ve just conquered a beast, and I’m ready to take on another.

That beast is Resistance.

There’s a release when I hit ‘publish’. Something inside me has broken free, creating space for new ideas and inspirations. I feel almost giddy and l promise myself I’ll write more often. But as days go on, I lose my mojo. And after about two weeks, I’ll find any excuse to avoid sitting down to write.

Turns out my experience is not unique. I’m halfway through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, in which he lays out the numerous forms of resistance artists encounter in carrying out their sacred work. This book is rocking my world. Pressfield writes that we often meet the strongest resistance in creating that which is most meaningful and valuable to us – the work that comes from our heart and soul.

I’ve written about the pressure of passion before. Those of us who feel our passion eludes us can be so preoccupied with ‘finding it’ that it becomes a source of stress. We conclude that we must not have one, or that we’re somehow missing it. Either way, something feels wrong.

But this could be resistance in clever disguise.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn Hall. She's painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! See more of her gorgeous sacred art at http://christynmhall.com.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn M. Hall. She’s painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! Click on the image above or visit christynmhall.com to see more of her gorgeous sacred art.

The force of resistance is real, insidious, and relentless. Resistance discourages us from putting our barest selves out there, because we are then subject to potential humiliation, rejection, and failure. Resistance abhors change, because change puts us out of our comfort zone and compels us to be vulnerable. Resistance is mired in fear.

There are those who seem to unequivocally know what their sacred work is. They don’t have to search for their passion; it pulses in their bones. I used to think that they were ‘lucky’ to have their gifts flow through them so effortlessly. I envied that. I’m now seeing that they too encounter self-doubt and resistance. But they still show up to do their work.

To me, resistance is synonymous with ego. Resistance will stop at nothing to prevent us from doing what makes us feel truly self-expressed and in our power. Resistance is slippery and must be watched like a hawk. It knows all our weak spots and will even spend time contemplating the problem of resistance itself, to distract us from pursuing anything it perceives as threatening!

In my own life, I’m feeling it in the form of second-guessing my decision to begin my Kundalini Yoga teacher training. For the last ten years, I’ve seen myself becoming a yoga teacher…’someday’. Well, that day is here; the training starts next month, I’ve booked the days off work, and my application is completed.

And I’m questioning all of it.

Pressfield writes that what we most resist doing, we absolutely must do. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the payoff. This is an important message for me now. Having recently changed cities, I’m on new ground to show up in new ways. I am sensing the necessity to take more risks, to trust my inner knowing (and speak it), and do what I need to do because the time is ripe to do it.

Collectively, something big is in the air. We could look at the world today and become completely cynical and hopeless. No one would blame us. Or we could take advantage of a new energy that is growing all around us – an energy we ourselves have created in response to our collective pain and suffering. There are so many of us desiring a completely different way of being. Maybe our prayers have been heard, and we can live the lives we couldn’t before.

This new way requires trusting in the unknown and letting go of who we thought we were. And, of course, kicking resistance in the ass.