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Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.
– Natalie Goldberg
Two New Years ago, I set an intention to write 100 blog posts that year. In retrospect, I see that the goal was ambitious. I do not want what I write to simply be stream of consciousness or quantity unpolished, unreflected upon. Still, there are ways with writing that I hold back that don’t help me.
I wrestle with blogging. There is a perfectionist in me that wants everything to be, well, perfect. That is not simply spelling, grammar, paragraphing. That is the easy part. It is more in striking the right balance between relevant and entertaining, serious and playful, logical and beautiful, pedagogical and vulnerable.
I realize in thinking about this that I am seeing blogging as more about appearance than essence. That is philosophy speak in my world for caring more about how it comes across to you than how it is for me. No wonder I was so struck in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic when she entreats us to create for the sake of creating. She decries that we have been socialized to see creativity as instrumental (Am I talented? Will people like it?) instead of expressive (How is it an expression of myself? How does it make me feel?). Gilbert believes we all have a human need to create and part of us atrophies when we shut that down. She laments that we need to stop thinking about the audience (or lack thereof) and start believing in the benefits for ourselves.
Over and over again I have seen people who, measuring their progress by the old standard, don’t feel like they are making very much headway. And then, just like the sun breaking through the clouds on a winter day, they turn a corner, and their whole relationship to their compulsions and with themselves changes.
The Gift of Our Compulsions
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
The nature of the human being is progress. The addictive pulls that pervade our culture, that claw at us in thousands of recorded messages, lie to us when they urge us to find some quiet backwater of “peace.” Our real nature is to swim in the current. We are much more trout than clams.
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives