“There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” Martha Graham, as quoted by Agnes DeMille, Martha: The Life and work of Martha Graham
We all have blocking beliefs, whether its I’m not good enough, or I don’t have time, or I’m not creative. When I listen to all the reasons I can’t write, or the fears that assail me when it gets to rewriting, I paralyze, feel frozen. So many good projects are waiting on the back burner for me to make a commitment to them, to decide I am worthy of taking this creative time. This morning I decided I needed a ritual to let my muse know that I am going to take this time and finally face the blocks that may be unconsciously holding me back from working on my stories.
What I love about the Martha Graham quote is that she gives me permission to just do it! To not wait for the perfect moment or the perfect mentor to encourage me. I don’t have to worry about how good my writing is, or the value of my stories. But I do have to take the time and keep the channel open. Just acknowledging this intention is very good for me. I feel my desire is growing to love myself enough to write those stories of a rebellious young girl feeling her way through love, sex, relationships with guys, experimenting with danger, pushing the edges of her boundaries to find her own truth, living in an house with alcoholic parents where unpredictability was the order of the day.
Tomorrow I begin leading two Creative Journal Classes and I’m very psyched for it. I understand the fear some participants or new writers may be feeling because I still feel it! I get to place my faith and trust in the journal writing every time I open the page. It’s not usually difficult for me to write in the first place, but taking the raw material and transforming it into stories is something new for me. I’ve worked with poetry for over twenty years, and love that creative process. Now it’s time to give some dedicated time to the stories inhabiting me.
Here’s a metaphor for facing the fear that I came up with for my first class (excerpted version):
Imagine your desire to write is like a tow line attached to a ferry crossing a river. If you jump in the cold water you’ll be swept downstream by a very strong current, and may drown (at least, that is the fear). But if you hold onto the tow line or better yet, attach your boat to it, or drive onto a ferry that is attached to it, you will be pulled across in safety to the other side. What does the tow line represent in this scenario? Your faith and trust, taking baby steps, one at a time, in entrusting your thoughts to your journal, beginning to tell your story.
Where we are headed is not a physical space and the fears may seem irrational. Maybe it’s a dream you have of publishing a book, maybe it’s more self-awareness you want, or time for some creative play. Maybe it’s a particular project like I have, to write my teenage adventures (they’ been sitting on my computer since I took a course online in Autobiographical writing). What do you need? You need encouragement and you need courage: both these words have the French word for heart at the center – Coeur – so you need to get in touch with your Heart’s desire in order to find your courage.
How do you imagine yourself getting across the wide gulf? The only way I know is by writing from the heart, surrounding yourself with heart-centered, positive people; perseverance and discipline are needed, yes, but from the inside, not the outside. If you don’t have a fierce desire to write yet, that’s ok. Let it be vague and foggy, and just know that if you attach yourself to the tow line, the rope can be your journal, your connection with the inner guide, your trust in the Voice. Your desire to get to write and know yourself better is like a muscle that has been a little unused perhaps, but with practice it will get strengthened. You will get across and look back, wondering what you were so afraid of, because you find you do have the power to write, the strength, the courage has come. This is how I felt watching my website go live the first week of September and two new book projects begin to come closer to reality.
The journey of your life is afoot, the journey to journaling also. Here you are, on the boat taking your first steps to face your fears – bravo! Give yourself a pat on the back for showing up, for registering for a class, for taking baby steps that can turn into giant steps. Let it continue like this, venturing into unknown territory. We’ll break it down into doable tasks. With five minute writing, ten minute writing, small questions to get you started, deep questions that may challenge you or inspire you. We will always begin with centering, to ground ourselves in the body, in the here and now. We’ll jump through the hoop or the ring of fire by focusing on the hoop, not the fire.
Writing is a beautiful gift humans have been given. Don't let the fear stop you from discovering it.