My nourishing friend, Rachel Dollard of Nepesh Wellness was inspired by a friend of hers to tackle the question: why I write? From there, she challenged others to write about why they write and I have really enjoyed reading and finding aspects of myself in all of the responses.
So I sat down… and I felt a big block against writing. I tried again a few days later. Same thing. Several weeks have passed and I finally forced myself to start putting words down. That was four days ago and here I am, today, rewriting it all. (Don’t know yet whether today will be the day I finally post… we’ll see!)
I used to write a lot and I have always been into stories. As a kid, I would make my parents, relatives, parents’ friends (pretty much any adult I encountered) tell funny/crazy family stories. I would collect them. When I could read, I would get wrapped up in books and stay up all night reading. Mom would come in and take the books away from me to get me to sleep, so I started hiding them under my pillow. It wasn’t very subtle, sometimes there were so many books under there that my pillow would be at least six inches off the mattress! When I re-read ‘books’ I wrote in elementary school, I am amazed at my creativity and joy – and I laugh to see how much my writing then were pastiches of my favorite books at the time.
From the joy and creativity of youth, my writing transitioned to angsty poems all about unrequited love and the struggle of being a sensitive, caring being in a world that felt like it was always hurting. Although I never intended to actually follow through with it, they would sometimes take on the sound of a suicide note. When I began traveling, I began journaling and I would keep notes of all the places I went and people I met and how I felt about it all. Most of my life, writing was my way of learning to become aware of, expressing, and validating my experience and emotions. It was how I learned to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see from other perspectives.
Then, one day, and for a very purposeful reason – I decided I need to stop. So here it is – why I (don’t) write:
Words were a power I suspected I had not yet learned to wield responsibly.
Looking back through those travel journals, I became aware that there were more words of hurt than beauty and when I wasn’t traveling, my journals were only written in when I was sad or in emotional turmoil and pain. Through yoga, I have learned that what we focus on is what we see and I began to wonder: what stories was I reinforcing when I wrote? Were they stories that were uplifting or inspirational? Were they stories of gratitude and compassion? Truthfully, they were usually stories of victimization – of a small being, trying to understand why everyone hurt it all the time and when that small being didn’t want to blame others for it’s pain, it turned on itself and wrote words that were so hateful and violent about how it looked and who it was at it’s core that if I re-read those words now, I am shaken. I realized I needed to see differently. So I stopped writing to retrain myself to focus on beauty.
But why couldn’t I just force myself to start writing only when I was happy instead, and record all of my happy moments? Because I also realized I needed to learn to process my experience with something other than my head – the domain of words. Yoga teaches us a way of balance – a union between body, mind, and soul. I spent much of my life to date, cut off from my body. There are many reasons for this (low self-image being one) but our culture and our education system encourage an approach to life that is very intellectual and rational. My writing was a place of creativity and thus a place where I could pour out everything in me that was emotional and non-rational. But it still used words – a property of intellect. Looking back on it now, I suspect the reason I didn’t write when happy was that I was enjoying the experience and didn’t need to remove myself or try and escape the experience. Writing when sad was a way of avoiding communications and confrontations that needed to happen. It was a way of feeling the feelings without actually feeling them deep enough to truly heal and let them go. So I stopped writing to train myself to go for a walk when sad, or to speak to the person involved rather than disappearing into myself. I stopped writing to train myself to stop hiding from life in my head.
Don’t get me wrong: words are still a huge part of how I process my experience. Friends of mine can tell you how much I talk and ask of my support network to listen while I verbally process what’s going on in my life, and as a ‘writer’ and lover of words, much of the time I use too many and they are flowery and descriptive. In learning to teach yoga effectively, we discussed the idea of minimum, relevant wording and directive, rather than descriptive cueing. Both these ideas are important in facilitating an experience for our students where they can get out of their heads and into their bodies. They make the class less about the teacher and more applicable to each student and their individual experience. They help us all move into focused action. I knew the concepts were important. I felt immediately they were not my strong suits as a teacher. So I stopped writing to train myself to speak more clearly and communicate more efficiently and effectively.
But I am still a writer. Using words is still one of preferred (and more effective) ways of relating to others and forging community and connections. I sometimes write blog posts like this. When I know I am not expressing myself verbally because I’m scared of being vulnerable or misunderstood, I write what I want to say and sometimes I give it to the person and sometimes it just helps me get clear or find some closure. Sometimes I write the victim stories popping up in my head so I can better see the patterns and identify what parts of myself are not being nurtured and are crying out for attention. I started a gratitude jar back at the New Year (and have fallen off writing down my things I’m grateful for each day but still have it sitting by my bed, reminding me of how much there is to be grateful for). Slowly, I am finding balance in my writing and getting better every day at learning when to speak, when to be silent, when to speak through action – each day trying to wield the power of words more compassionately and responsibly.
And it’s hard because writing, like any other creative endeavor, is a muscle that has to be used or it atrophies. So I am grateful for this prompt and the inspiration of the amazing lady writers who have responded to it in their words. And even though I promised this before (see my post ‘Good Enough’ is a long time coming…) this time I really mean it: that I will try and flex my creativity more and reach out to you all more through blog posts because maybe I have something to say that is useful and because, at the very least, maybe you seeing me flopping around in my life will help inspire you to realize that it’s OK if you feel that way, too. So that is why I will write.
(And – yes – today is the day I hit publish!)