“Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. “I will not Reason and Compare,” said Blake; “my business is to Create.” Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ” ― Brenda Ueland
The morning is heavy. The air thick and damp as blue jays squawk and screech high in the trees. I smell remnants of the neighbors bon fire from a party that went late into the night. Fog hovers low to the ground. Summer is waning. I see the signs as I ride my bike through the woods. Patches of leaves at the far end of branches turning a yellow or orange hue. A single golden oak leaf on the dirt path. Canadian Geese flying in formation high in the sky. Or simply the fact I had to start wearing sweaters and jackets when I left the house each morning last week.
I feel myself shifting too. I took last week off of writing, or really any creating, for the most part. It was not intended. It was as if I needed to recalibrate after a month of intense creative activity. I wrote in my journal but other than that, I was empty and still of words. Even in my meditation practice, my normal bouncing, planning mind was conspicuously quiet and still. I found myself sitting each morning on my black cushion following my breath with relative ease.
Yet lurking in my belly was a nagging anxious feeling. Not my normal anxiety that stomps around and yells loud and clear most days. No this was deep, more primal, almost a low growl. All week I felt uneasy and flat. Like I shut down and was hiding.
On Thursday morning this unease finally came into focus. I caught the edge of this deep low growl in my belly writing in my journal. I heard the fragments of a story I know so well. The weekend before I had co-hosted a Kindred Connection workshop with Jen Lee and Anna Oginsky. It was an intense and awesome day. I met so many brilliant, fiery, creative women making not only beautiful and powerful art but wonderful lives as well. I left inspired and connected. And I left drained and questioning my own validity as a maker.
I hate to admit this but I struggle with comparing my writing and other creative work to others all the time. It is a constant nagging thought. I think it is endemic of my chronic not good enough feelings I acquired growing up. For me, I worry my writing is too messy, not clear, and oh, too many images streaming along not making sense. I worry my visual artwork is just scribbles and crap, that I am deluding myself thinking it is beautiful. I get frustrated that I continually seem to return to images and ideas from my childhood. I tell myself, I must grow up. Make something pretty, simple and clear.
Yet what shows up in my work is somewhat messy, not so mainstream, not so happy most of the time. So I embrace what does show up and I allow it to grow. That is who I am, what is in me. My writing style is not a standard literary style, it is not going to win any great awards, but the point is I love writing, it helps me to clarify. I love the images that pour out of me. Many times these images and words will stay with me for days. Writing and drawing are almost like dreaming on paper; they me help figure out my insides.
I have found the more I embrace my voice the stronger it becomes and the less I compare. I show up for me first and honestly that feels really good. There are not too many places in my life where I can put me first—on the page or canvas I can. I need to remember that comparing diminishes my authenticity.
It is so easy grab hold of the habit to compare and think we are doing it wrong or have to be different. It is easy to think that who we are or where we came from is not good enough. Letting go of this habit, impulse or whatever you want to call it, is hard. I am not sure the habit ever goes away.
I think we learn how to recognize comparing when it shows up, say hello to it and then tell it not today as we move on with our work. The hard part is we still know it is sitting in the corner of our hearts, just out of sight and we have to muster the courage to forge forward anyways despite the annoying comparison habit still there growling low in our bellies.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.
Is There a Time and Place for Authenticity? by Claire De Boer- This is a thoughtful post exploring where, when and how much to share about ourselves. This is something I grapple with tremendously. Transparency is important to me and I struggle with being seen as I really am. The habit of hiding in plain sight still lives in my cells.
Meditation on Gratitude and Joy by Jack Kornfield- Strange but gratitude and joy can be difficult emotions for me to sit with. It is through deliberate cultivation I have learned to grow and allow gratitude and joy to flourish in my life. I love this line from this meditation, “Gratitude is confidence in life itself.”
How Painting Can Transform Communities by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn- This TED talk explores how art empowers and transforms entire neighborhoods.
Make Your Laziness Be Real Rest by Caroline Knox- I love this poem. This is one I would be well served to read everyday as a reminder of how productive rest can be.
Interview with Lidia Yuknavitch on Other People Podcast– Two things about this: 1) Lidia Yuknavitch is beyond an amazing author. Read her now. I had to pull over and take notes while listening to this interview. One of my notes, self-expression is better than self-destruction. Yes, that is why I must show up and write. 2) I know I have said it before but Brad Listi’s Other People podcast is by far one of the best podcasts out there. Engaging and always interesting. Go listen to it.
And finally, Registration for Writing to Open Your Heart is open. Register now and save. We start writing together on September 16, 2015.
Do you have questions about if my writing workshops are right for you? Or any other questions you want to ask?
Join me for Open Office Hours! I am holding open office hours on Wednesday September 2, 2015 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm EST to answer your questions via live video chat (same system I use for workshops). Send me a private message HERE and I will send you the link to join me.