Afraid to write

journaling

A while ago I read a blog post by writer Jenny Boyle at peaceandhotness.com about her fear to publish her writing. She thought she wasn’t able to be truly authentic and useful to her readers because she was going through a difficult time in her life. She wondered how she could possibly help others to live the healthy lifestyle she was recommending, when she couldn’t even help herself. 

I recognize her struggle. I often wonder if I am the right person to be writing what I write about as well. Most of my life I didn’t want to show my writing to anyone because I didn’t think I was “authorized” or good enough. I thought others wouldn’t take me seriously, or they would laugh at me for my audacity. Consumed by these doubts, I thought I had nothing of significance to say to the world. Maybe I lacked the wisdom to back up any of my pronouncements.

Especially when I was younger, I thought: “Who am I to tell anyone anything, when I barely know who I am? When I’ve barely done anything with my life?”

The doubts did prevent me from doing anything with my personal writing for almost 40 years, although I did write for my various jobs. I never stopped wanting to be a writer, however. 

Like Jenny, I went to a therapist to sort through my blocks — the fears that held me back from living the life I knew I could have.  

After leaving my first husband, my therapist Susan asked me in a session if I ever thought of writing about the things I had learned and experienced in my life. Susan said I could help others because I have an understanding about my struggles that others might not. For example, I’m very clear on how I talk myself out of taking action. I reflect on my own struggles in a way that helps me through them — through regular journaling — something I have been doing for most of my life. That alone was a tremendous benefit and help to my mental health. 

I told Susan I thought of blogging many times, but feared opening up like that on the Internet. Yet the truth was that I’d read many blogs by women who were dealing with very similar issues as I was, and I loved reading them. I admired the openness and authenticity of these writers and wanted to have the courage to write like they did.

It is surprisingly common for women to struggle with sharing their voice. 

One woman wrote into Dear Sugar, the column written by Cheryl Strayed, asking:

“How do I reach the page when I can’t lift my face off the bed? How does one go on, Sugar, when you realize you might not have it in you? How does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she’d be?”

Sugar’s response was beautiful:

How many women wrote beautiful novels and stories and poems and essays and plays and scripts and songs in spite of all the crap they endured. How many of them didn’t collapse into a heap of “I could’ve been better than this” and instead went right ahead and became better than anyone could’ve predicted or allowed them to be. The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It is strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve deny you—,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think coal miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that, they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart.

So write. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.
— Cheryl Strayed, from "Tiny Beautiful Things"

Now I know that if you have the passion to write, you MUST write. It’s a part of you that you don’t just owe it to yourself to honor, but you also owe it to the world. 

I can’t say that I’m done with the vulnerability part of this struggle to write, but I think I am gathering the nerve. It’s becoming easier every day.

The truth is, someone will love your writing or benefit from it, and for that person who does, isn’t it worth it to try? 

If you want a safe place to share your vulnerability and your writing, I highly recommend the Wild Heart Writers course by Jeanette LeBlanc. It is a place to put your writing that is safe and where you will get honest and supportive feedback and encouragement. If you want to take your writing further and have it published, Jeanette will help you find the right place for it.