“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
It’s good advice.
Work out what you want to say and just say it. Express it to the universe and see what comes back at you. Forget about the followers, the analytics and SEOs and write what your heart is screaming to say. Pour it out there, free and uninhibited. If others enjoy it, find meaning through it, it is a bonus.
It’s good advice that is fiendishly difficult to follow.
Perhaps we care too much about what others may think of us at times. The judgement of others and their condemnation act as straightjackets to our creativity. We phrase things differently, slap on that got-it-all-together-butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth veneer, and push our petty jealousies, our faults and our temptations way beneath the surface.
Don’t get me wrong, mental and emotional filters are good. Filters are great. They protect the feelings of those around us. They help us communicate in ways that allow the message to get through to others. But too often they exist as tools to protect us; to shield us from the finger-pointing of others.
I can type and delete a book full of sentences before I find one that sounds right in my head. I check my WordPress stats more often than I care to admit. And that quiet search for approval can be exhausting.
There was a time when it wasn’t always so. There was a time I didn’t care who looked on. I didn’t seek their permission or approval. I was young and I was just starting to learn the painful consequences of saying or doing the “wrong” thing.
Disappointments and the memory of pain have a habit of hemming some of us in. Sometimes their constraints are too tight and we long to be free from the anxiety and second guessing that comes from trying to avoid them. The past can infect everything. From one’s relationships to the ability to pour out one’s heart to the internet.
But there is no way around pain — physical or emotional. It comes to all of us at some point, in varying intensity and duration. You just have to go through it. Learn to sit with it and pray you won’t get crushed by it. The process isn’t pleasant. But it frees us nonetheless. If we can withstand it, it makes us stronger.
I find myself becoming braver as I grow older and learn to endure things. Tired of the constant worry, I’ve become less inclined to be terrified of the disapproval of others and more willing to share my story.
Then, of course, there is that issue of finding what to say. Find your authentic voice, they suggest. Be yourself. Find your angle. It has taken almost a lifetime to find out what that is, and I have to admit, I am still searching.
For literary agent, Rachelle Gardner:
…your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.
Voice is all about your originality and having the courage to express it.
There are days when words just tumble out of my head and onto the screen, the story already formed and impatient to exist. Then there are days when I struggle to link words into sentences, sentences into phrases, let alone convey a message in a voice that is my own.
But as Kingsolver suggests, our voice, our message, unadulterated by the perceived opinion of others, may be the one and only thing we have to offer.
We just need the courage to express it.
*This post has been kicking around for about a year. I have drafted and sent this post to the trash many times, worrying about all sorts of things. It was reading other bloggers who are going outside their comfort zone to express themselves honestly and bravely that finally made me hit publish.