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.

don’t hold me to these words

Shortly after publishing my last post, I took it down. I felt overexposed and, as I’ve done many times before, questioned why I put myself so ‘out there’ on this blog. (The irony that it was a post on the power of vulnerability was not lost on me.)

It happens quite often: as soon as I hit ‘publish’, I second-guess myself, or see a perspective that I didn’t before. Wait, do I really feel this way? It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read the draft. Once published, my words seem so…final.

I’m reminded of a very powerful women’s retreat I did back in 2010. The group facilitators requested that we not hold any woman to the words or emotions she expressed over that weekend. Once the words were spoken, they were to be let go. We weren’t bound to the pain (or joy) we experienced in those moments. Though we honoured the stories we shared, we weren’t defined by them. We were allowed the freedom and ability to change.

‘technicolor parvati’ by the amazing sonja picard. see more at sonjapicard.com

At my parents’ place, in the far corner of the closet in my old bedroom, there is a box. It’s filled with my old journals, spanning ages eight through my twenties. I think about that box often, because I have no idea what to do with it. I have little desire to read any of those diaries, but I keep thinking that I someday might.

I wonder how it would feel to burn all those journals – my stories, my identity, my past. Would it be incredibly liberating, or profoundly terrifying? (Both?) I sometimes fantasize about creating a ritual fire, a sacred ceremony to release my entire past into the flames. Become a true phoenix rising from the ashes. But it seems too great a risk to take. I am protective of the younger me, and her journey. Burning that journey burns her.

Maybe that box is on my mind because blogging seems to now be my very public diary. And once again, I find myself questioning why. On two occasions I’ve deleted a post, only to re-publish it a few hours later. Why not just keep them offline, if that’s what makes me comfortable? Because deleting some of my words deletes all of them. Hiding part of me is hiding all of me…the part contains the whole.

I’m really loving Dani Shapiro’s books at the moment. I just read a wonderful passage from her memoir Devotion, in which she quotes BKS Iyengar:

The moment you say ‘I have got it,’ you have lost everything you had. As soon as something comes, you have to go one step further. Then there is evolution. The moment you say ‘I am satisfied with that,’ that means stagnation as come. That is the end of your learning; you have closed the windows of your intellect. So let me do what I cannot do, not what I can do.

Writing is my evolution. Whether for my eyes only or made public on the Internet, it takes me to new places of awareness and self-discovery. But my words are never final; they shift and evolve with me. One post always leads into the next through the thread of my consciousness. The process is addictive and irresistible.

I’m still not sure why I share that process so openly. But maybe it doesn’t matter. I remember what I learned in my recent float tank experience: living my expression, and doing what I love to do, is enough. No questions asked. My goal is to live and write with integrity in the moment, knowing that nothing is static and brand new words are always around the corner.