I was really inspired by this video. Like everyone else, I read Eat, Pray, Love. I read it in Costa Rica right after I had resigned from my secure-ish ivy research job in favor of
a life of constant uncertainty and steadily dwindling funds chasing my dreams.
I really admired the courage she, and so many other artists/writers/poets/whatever had to just share herself with the world.
I love writing. I always have. It took several years of following my gut instincts all over the world and trying a few different careers before I decided to start calling myself “a writer.” And trust me, I started introducing myself to people as “a writer” at least six months before I had published anything with my name on it (to be clear- I used to be a ghostwriter, which is a lot less intimidating.)
I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve published something on this blog… THIS BLOG that hardly anyone reads, and then gone back and deleted it a few hours later because I felt too exposed. It’s not like I was sharing my social security number or a list of my favorite sex positions, I just have always struggled with anxiety around how other people will respond to things that I write.
.::This does not stop me from writing scathing Yelp reviews::.
Gilbert’s point that creativity is not produced by the artist, but channeled from some greater source really resonated with me. It’s much less pressure on the ego, and I don’t know about you, but mine gets prrrretttyyy out of control sometimes.
.::Don’t worry! I am going to somehow tie this in with running::.
I consider myself a creative type. When I was young, I preferred to sit alone in my bedroom, reading, writing, listening to music and designing t-shirts.
Unfortunately, my skill in drawing ceased to develop beyond ten years old, but writing is something I actually got better at over the years.
My mom always told me that I started speaking in full sentences by the time I was one year old, and apparently I used the word “phenomenal” in a sentence (correctly) at 3.5 years.
I don’t remember any of that. I do, however, have a vague childhood memory of my first grade teacher showing my parents something I had written. She found it extremely unusual that a six year old had inserted some witty remarks and complex grammatical structure into a story about.. a tiger or something..? I can’t remember. I think it was a talking tiger.
Even though I’m sure she was actually impressed, I remember feeling like I had done something wrong.
After that, my sixth grade language arts teacher read one of my essays out loud in front of the entire class as an example of what the other students should strive for. He didn’t say who wrote it, but I distinctly remember turning beet red and slumping down in my desk out of embarrassment. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever shared that story because it freaked me out so much.
If this is how I respond to positive feedback….
I’ll admit to some extremely ridiculous anxiety. Fear of success and fear of failure. It really helps to know that everyone struggles with it.
So now I find myself at this turning point, where I’ve been working part-time as a reporter for the local newspaper network, slowly building confidence and receiving valuable feedback from an editor. But I want to do more, and I suppose that in writing this blog entry that you may or may not find amusing, I’m trying to publicly make some kind of commitment to pursue this “writing career” (still in quotes) and either succeed or fail.
In addition to Gilbert’s TED talk, I’ve recently felt inspired by my fellow writer buddy Joe Dimeck who just self-published his second book. I have not read it, yet, because I’m a broke-ass writer. If someone wants to buy it/them for me, that’d be super duper. Either way, I’m impressed by his ability to overcome the anxiety that has held me back so far.
I view this commitment as a personal challenge similar to registering for a race of a distance farther than I’ve ever run before. I can talk about it all I want, but I’m not really invested until I sign up.
Running has taught me that I do have the self-discipline to accomplish goals that I once feared I’d fail at. Every time I dress for a race, I feel an intense wave of anxiety. All I can do to keep my breakfast down is breathe deeply and promise myself that I’m going to either a) run across the finish line with a smile on my face, or b) get carried out on a stretcher. Nothing less than 100% of my effort is acceptable, regardless of the outcome.
I’m not a good runner, by any means. I’m definitely not fast. I just show up and try. I’m also incredibly stubborn. I never go into it expecting to succeed, but sometimes I do. No matter what happens, it’s always fun.
I believe that I have one of these daemons that Gilbert mentions in her TED talk. Some voice of inspiration that forces me to get out of bed early in the morning to do the things that I truly love, even when I don’t have to, whether that be running or tending to farm chores. I can hear it, and most of the time that’s the only thing that gets me off my ass.
I don’t see why I can’t direct that toward making me a more efficient and dedicated writer. I don’t need to be a starving artist, hunched over my laptop among piles of notes and laundry, cramming chocolate truffles into my mouth and washing it all down with monster energy drinks, doing anything I possibly can to procrastinate.
Don’t judge me.
Hmm.. I think I’m going to scrap my plans for a feel-good conclusion to this piece in favor of finishing with, “Don’t judge me.”