If only you knew (what it’s really like to write)

Over a dozen of you wrote to me last week to share how much the missive meant to you. Thank you.

As I read message after message, I shook my head and thought, “Wow. If only they knew.”

Then I realized that perhaps it’s right that you DO know.

The morning I wrote that missive, I did not bounce out of bed with a smile.

Like so many other parents in this COVID time, my husband and I have been caring for our baby for 2 months without outside help, while both running our businesses.

We’re thankful to have that option … and also, it has not been easy.

We’ll have more help soon, but the morning I wrote the missive, I felt as though I was running a marathon with no finish line.

Once I got our daughter down for her morning nap, I called in to my friend Brooke Adams Law’s free Writing Circle.

I wasn’t “ready” in any formal sense of the word. Pajamas, snarly hair, no makeup. Lots of practical things I could be doing.

But I’d set aside those 45 minutes to write, and I decided to stay in committed action, to show up and create something for you.

What It’s Really Like to Write

I opened the document on my computer. I stared at it. I wrote a sentence, then deleted it.

The inner dialogue went like this:

Oh my God. What am I going to write about? I have no good ideas. Oof. This is bad, this is bad. Time to panic?

Maybe. Clock is ticking. You only have 40 minutes now. Come on! Write!

But I have no good ideas!

There must be something!

Then a gentler voice: Honey, it’s okay. You know how to do this. Feel around for the story that wants to be told.

So I did. I looked into my consciousness as you would a body of water, peering down to see where the fish were swimming.

But the only thing I could see was this “little” fish – this story about going to summer camp in Scotland one year.

My inner critic judged that story harshly.

That’s not exciting enough! That’s not big enough! Seriously, you have to keep looking!

I kept looking. All I had was this one idea, this one fish. Nothing else was on the hook.

My inner critic was not impressed.

That’s IT? That’s ALL? That silly story about the time you needed a job and found one just in time? So what?

For a moment, I felt cowed. But also: A little bit defiant.

Yup, that’s all I’ve got. And the clock is ticking. So, I might as well get started.

It’s not good enough!

Maybe not for you, but … I kind of like it. I’m going to write it anyway. Maybe something cool will come through.

And then I wrote for the remaining time. The inner critic quieted down as I got into the flow of the piece.

By the end of the session, though, I still thought I’d “flubbed.” I still thought that the story was meaningful to me, but probably wouldn’t land with you.

Isn’t it great to be wrong?

***

It’s easy to let your inner critic run your life. It’s tempting to think that when you hit a wall of resistance, you should stop.

Because surely “real” writers don’t have that happen, right? Surely it means that you’re not cut out for the job?

Nope. The truth is that resistance is not personal. It comes to everyone who is brave enough to keep showing up and making art.

Resistance can sound very convincing, but what I’ve come to see is that, to quote Steven Pressfield …

Resistance is always lying, and always full of sh^!.

In my experience, resistance kicks up the loudest when you’re on the brink of a breakthrough. It turns up the volume when you’re on to something good.

So I offer you this backstage pass into the writing process because I want you to know …

I wrestle with resistance too.
I don’t have it all figured out.
I don’t always know what story is going to speak to you.

But after a lifetime of writing and close to a decade of blogging, I do know this much:

1. Consistency is your friend. Choosing to make time to create on a regular basis is half the battle.

2. Often the best ideas do not seem to “make sense” on the surface. Go deeper. Trust that more will be revealed.

3. Humility helps. Remember that you are not the best judge of the creative work that wants to be created through you.

In fact, often you are the very worst judge of it. Learn to set aside your belief that you know best, and simply make what wants to be made.

This is your life.
Go make something good.

Yours in possibility,
Caroline

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What do you want to make? How is resistance showing up for you? Join the conversation in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “If only you knew (what it’s really like to write)

  1. Bridget says:

    I love how beautifully relatable you are. The image of a lake as your conscious and the little fishes as bits of information that can be used to connect with others is easily imaginable. I’m glad you chose the Scotland fish. Thank you for being real. I know I need reminding that nobody has it all figured out and I’m often my own worst critic.

    • You are so welcome, Bridget. I’m glad that “fish” jumped out at me too. Based on the many emails I’ve received since that missive went out to the list, we all needed the reminder that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. 😉 Your words of encouragement help me to keep showing up fully human. Thank you.

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