Taking Off The Writer's Hat
The other day, a friend and I had an exchange about where we’re at with our writing and perception of ourselves as writers. We shared thoughts on feeling insecure sometimes—afraid that the dream is unattainable or that, flat-out, we’re just not good enough.
I try never to dwell here for long. If allowed to fester, these feelings are like a sore inside my heart, getting hot with infection and threatening to shut my creativity down altogether.
So often, we live in roles, like actors and actresses with different parts. This isn’t to say we put on unauthentic masks, not at all. But it is to say, to borrow a cliché, we wear a lot of hats in life. When I worked at the college, I was a Worker. I managed an office, balanced budgets, served students—that was the role I wore 40 hours a week. At home, I’m a Mom. Right now, that role is prominent for me while my daughter finishes her senior year and my son goes through his illness. I have been a Pastor’s Wife (a hat I never wore with ease), and when I’m with my girlfriends, I am a Friend. None of these are not me, but none of them are the whole me either.
If I allow myself to step outside all roles, in the quiet of my heart and mind, most often in the early morning before the day has really started, the roles are all suspended. Here, I am most my complete self; there is no role, and I am my most authentic me.
Not coincidentally, I think, this is also when I have my purest ideas for writing. Sometimes they are like shadows I see and sense but can’t grasp enough to articulate or like trying to grab a handful of cloud, they dissipates when I reach out to give them words. It is frustrating, but the inspiration is pure. I can see the vision and know I’m right where I need to be. Later, if I am still, I can sometimes recall the ideas and give them clumsy form when I write.
Tying it All Together
Ironically, I think when I struggle most as a writer is when I am in my role of Writer. When I put on that hat, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform like a writer. I compare myself to other people who call themselves a writer. I do writerly things like read craft books and blogs and try to impose a lot of shoulds on my writing. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they are all very externally connected—to what others think, how I compare, even to the expectations I put on myself.
When I am still and just Julie, the creation I’m meant to be, breathing, created for a purpose, I am most free to write. The doubts are quieted, because I know it’s not all about me. The ego can bow out. I realize I’m a conduit, not the almighty source of words. When I’m in this delicate place, writing can be a very spiritual process and that’s when the doubt and critical thinking and damaged self-esteem are most quiet.
How do you quiet the barking doubts that nip at your heels? Where is your most authentic place? When do you most feel yourself as you’re writing?