This morning I started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s somewhat new podcast, called “Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert”, relating to her most recent book, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. Liz (we’re Facebook friends so I feel as though we’re on a first name basis) just released the second season of the podcast, and today I listened to Season 1, Episode 1.
I loved Eat, Pray, Love, I enjoyed Committed, and I always stop by Liz’s Facebook page to read another inspirational or thought provoking post. A part of me wanted to read Big Magic when it came out almost a year ago, but another part of me held me back. Every time I saw the book in a store, I would think, “I’ll find it at the second hand bookstore, I don’t feel like paying full price” or “Maybe I’ll pick it up next time I see it.” It wasn’t until today that I was able to articulate exactly why I kept putting off buying it, and oddly enough, it was Liz herself who helped me find out why.
As I’ve mentioned in many of my blog posts, for as long as I can remember I have wanted to write, and yet never sat down to write anything. Starting this blog was a way for me to finally begin that journey, and do something about it instead of always just saying how much I wanted to write. I started this blog about 10 months ago, and in that time have written 19 posts. It doesn’t sound like a lot, I know I could’ve written more, and I would like to keep up the pace I started last month, where 8 of my posts came from.
This month has been quiet on the blog front, however that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have written quite a few long pieces on a variety of subjects, with the intent of trying to get them published. I have pitched 3 different articles to 3 different publications in the past couple of weeks, and heard nothing back. I know it can take them awhile to respond if they respond at all, and if they don’t, I’m fully aware how new I am to this game and to writing in general. I’m not expecting to be published right away, but I wanted to get something out there, make my intentions known to the universe, and give myself a goal to write towards.
However, hand in hand with the realistic view of my ability and experience, of course comes fear. The extreme fear that I will never be any good, the fear that everyone has already written and said what I thought were inspired and original thoughts, the fear that this nagging desire to write is not actually a sign I should listen to, but rather just another dream at which I will ultimately fail.
After having only written on my own blog, it’s also very different trying to get something published. I have no frame of reference for how to do this. I’m used to writing a blog post and immediately being able to make it public, the instant gratification of letting a piece of my creativity out into the universe. With this new venture, my creativity is sitting in someone’s inbox, probably still unopened. And goodness only knows what kind of reactions await it if it ever does get opened.
When attempting a new project or adventure, my tendency is just to do it, with very little planning ahead of time. When I plan a trip I book a flight and a place to sleep, and after that I may or may not plan much of anything else. When I wanted to switch careers and get into the field I’m in now, I had zero experience. But I sent out a bunch of emails to strangers and friends alike, and got myself an internship, and I’ve been working consistently ever since. So it is with this now, I’m sending in submissions to publications a little blindly, hoping for the best. (I realize this may backfire, and if it does, I’ll have to find another approach.)
Listening to Liz’s podcast this morning I learned that, obviously, I am not alone in feeling this fear. So many people experience their own insecurities and fears when attempting their creative ventures, that most of the time it causes them to find excuses not to follow their dreams. This is probably why it took me so many years to finally start writing something. Starting this blog was my first line of defense against that fear, my first time fighting back and proving that I can write something. It may be that no one reads it and it may not be anything that any worthwhile publication would publish, but I was at least doing something to fight back against that deeply rooted voice telling me that I wasn’t a writer.
Listening to the podcast also helped me realize that that same fear is the reason I never picked up Big Magic off a shelf. I knew reading it would only prove that I was living in fear and finding excuses to ignore my creative impulses. I knew that Liz would somehow get right at the heart of that fear, that I would be seeing my insecurities in print, and my experienced and well crafted defense mechanisms subconsciously kept me away.
As with all fears and insecurities, it comes down to my self-talk and my own inner monologue. That voice that likes to remind me that I’m not a writer, it’s still there. It became a little quieter after I started my blog, but now that I am thinking more and more about getting published, it’s back to being pretty loud. It likes to gloat when I’m looking through other peoples’ blogs on the exact topics I want to write about, seeing how many views and comments they have. It turns smug when I am researching a publication that I want to submit an article to, only to find that they have a handful of already published articles on the same topic, which are of course much better written than mine.
It was hard to argue with that voice before I had written anything – it was right. But that’s not the case anymore. No, I’m not writing novels and who knows if I will ever actually be published, but the more I write and the more I release that continuously nagging creativity begging to be expressed, the more ammunition I have against it.
It makes me think of the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We all know the dangers of judging someone else by what they look like, what they do for a living, or one thing they said. But what about not judging yourself by your fear? Isn’t it just as dangerous to judge yourself by what your insecurities are telling you? When that voice tells you “You’re not beautiful” or “You’re no good at this, so there’s no point in trying” you’ve got to challenge it, give yourself a chance to prove it wrong, just like you give others a chance to reveal their true selves before you pass judgement on them. (This idea is related to another of my blog posts, The New Golden Rule.)
So, I’m challenging that voice of mine, and remaining open-minded in my approach to who I am. I will no longer take that voice at face value, it does not serve me. I’ve learned recently this is not a change that can be made overnight, it is a practice, and one that must be done on a daily basis.
It just might be that I am a writer.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.