Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Fish Out of Water (Laura)
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because
those who matter don't mind and those who
mind don't matter." -Dr. Seuss (Some confusion
about who wrote this one.)
This was exactly the reminder I needed right now. I had already started this post when I saw it, and it fit perfectly. So thank you for that, Spruce. Two weeks ago, I attended a writing workshop in the beautiful town of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. I thought I was going to work primarily on revising a manuscript there, but I ended up focusing a lot on self-confidence.
First of all, the people I met at the workshop were amazing, and I had some great times visiting with the other writers. However, it was easy to be intimidated by their success and experience, and I had the strong impression from the first night that I did not belong there. Normally, writing events are the one place where I never suffer from this insecurity, where I can put my truest energy into my work. But at many times throughout the week, that work was lost to my self-doubt. It felt like my revisions weren't coming from me but from this horrible, dark place inside that was trying to cover up some kind of shame. Which is not a place from which one can create.
It was my second full day there when I finally stopped staring at my computer screen and went for a walk alone. I realized I needed to just be by myself with nature to quiet my worries and thoughts. Out in the beautiful, wooded countryside, I felt safe again. I felt like I was enough being just me. I could not always carry the feeling back to my work, so there were some continuous ups and downs throughout the week. I kept returning to nature, back to the sun, sometimes rain. Back to the lovely country road. I visited the piglets down the street. I pet the neighbor dog who had the run of the woods. I stood by the creek and let the sound of the rushing water soothe and heal me.
Writing has always been this private space for me that in recent years I started sharing with some close writer friends. A place where I don't feel like I have to perform or act a certain way for someone's approval or gain. In so many other areas of my life, it seems I am always looking for this approval, and having those emotions taint my writing world felt icky. But it was happening for a reason. To show me what I am doing so wrong in other areas of my life when I let someone else's approval outweigh my own. There is a certain shame, deep down, that surfaces during these moments of vulnerability. It doesn't have to make sense in context, it still rises up. I still let it control me. But I don't have to.
Easier said than done, of course.
A wise and caring person at the workshop reminded me of the saying that you should always do the thing you are afraid of. I think I did that to an extent by going to the retreat, and it is a start. It was also completely worth it. I want to be brave and say the things that are in me to say without being held back by my own fears. Especially because not everyone is in an environment where they get a voice. We all have fears, and they may continue to surface. But we don't need to let them control us, just like we shouldn't let someone's approval control us. Face your fear, your shame, or whatever it is until you realize it is not as strong as you are. Because it isn't. It may take time. It will be hard. But it's got to be worth it. Even as you learn from other talented, impressive people, don't lose yourself. It's the one thing you have to give that no one else does.
Do you ever struggle with self-doubt, and what do you do to help yourself through it?