My first memory of writing is when I was about four or five. My mom would send letters back and forth to my oldest brother, who was in the Army. I decided to sit down and write him a letter.
My little hands discovered pens and paper. I sat down at the table and wrote. When I was finished, I handed the letter to my mom. I saw her look at it, and she put it into an envelope to mail. The only problem with this is that I didn’t know the alphabet, or how to form letters or sentences, so my message was just squiggly lines on the paper. At that moment, I wrote. It wasn’t perfect. Yet I think deep down my brother appreciated getting something from his little brother. Writing isn’t always about content. It is about contribution and sharing with others.
Writing has always been a constant companion.
When I have written, writing had allowed me to have my most significant accomplishments. Yet when I held back my writing, it has led to some of my biggest regrets. Writing is like being a parent. My son recently returned from his first sleep-away camp. Up to the event, I wished I could just keep him home, safe with my wife and me. Yet I knew that he needed the trip and he would do well without us by his side 24/7. It is the same with our words, assertions, and stories. They are safe in our heads, but they won’t flourish there. They need to explore the world and meet new people.
When I write, I see my talents as well as my shadow side. The shadow side must be allowed to express itself, but the shadow side simply wants to bring the writing home. At times the shadow can be a friend, and at others, it is an enemy.
My shadow is tied to competition, I am a competitive person. I want to win. I want to be the best, I want to be praised, and when I don’t get it, I get upset. For example in first grade we had a young authors contest, I wrote a story about a sabertooth tiger befriending a dinosaur, on the day of the awards I expected to win when I didn’t I was pissed. The shadow tells us not to write. Yet write, we must.
In college, it was my writing that got me placed in advanced English. When I burned down my college career, my writing saved me. I sat in the counselor’s office. The counselor told me that the only option I had was to write a letter to the Dean. In that letter I told a story about why my grades were bad, and why I had lost the scholarship that I received when I entered school. It was my letter to the Dean that got me back into school. I still remember the dean asking why was I failing out of school? He said if you wrote this way all the time you wouldn’t be failing out of school.
That statement was a blessing, but it also revealed an obstacle. Writing like this all the time. Developing consistency as a writer is hard. It cost me.
Yet my lack of writing was a contributor to me not finishing two Master Degrees. I wanted to write THE Thing instead of a thing. I researched, and researched composed pages but never turned in a completed thesis. Why? I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to go where no one else had been. I wanted to introduce the world to new exciting ideas and truths that would defy the laws of physics.
In my teens I dreamed of being a screenwriter. For years I never took the leap, when I was married, I finally did. I took a screenwriting class at a local Jr. College and felt success, and wanted to take it to another level.
The next level was an attempt at a fellowship. I entered a competition for a fellowship at USC. I made it into the final round. I remember the excitement of getting the letter and scheduling the interview. I took a half day at work. Looking back on it now, the interview I did was horrible. A week later, I got a rejection letter. I was so discouraged and depressed. I felt as if I shouldn’t write. That I wasn’t allowed to write. I continued to write. I applied and got into another professional screenwriting program, and finished it.
The shadow side began to appear. I wrote to get famous. When I was in a screenwriting program, I would dream of winning academy awards and being filthy rich. I wanted wealth, and I wanted recognition. There is a wrestling match that goes on. I would apply to writing contests and get rejected. I would go to screenwriting panels and listen to writers on TV shows and movies, and I would be bitter, envious, desiring what they had. I live in Los Angeles, so I had access.
When I identified my desires to be famous, and wealthy, I would shame myself, and say that I wasn’t authentic, that I wasn’t allowed to write until I could write from a particular place. So I didn’t write. I would start projects, make plans, and goals, then stop. That was wrong.
The secret to writing is writing, an excuse not to write is still an excuse not to write. I can’t wait until I have a perfect motivation or the right spirit. The only thing false humility does, it stops you from using your gifts and talents. It prevents you from sharing. It stops you from being generous.
Now I internalized all of this. I never argued with anyone. This even happened during altmba, I wanted to write the best posts every week, I expected to win one of the awards, when I didn’t I was bitter inside, I spit vitriol and bile internally. I hide this. I don’t talk about it.
Our words belong on paper, on blog posts, on computer screens. Our words and our stories need to be sent into the world.
Don’t keep your ideas in your head! It prevents you from sharing. It stops you from being generous. Our words belong on paper, on blog posts, on computer screens. Our words and our stories need to be sent into the world
If your words stay in your head, then all you are is a thinker. If your words make it from your head to paper, you are a thinker, and you and a writer. You are generous.
There is fear. Do an exercise with yourself and attempt to find the location of your anxiety. Find where it hides out. It doesn’t live in the expected place. I did this with myself and began to work towards the consistency I lacked.
I found a great writing community. It took awhile, and many failed attempts, but the Java community I write in now is perfect for me.
Before Java I wrote with a chip on my shoulder, very defensive inside, and even angry. Since I have joined Java, I write pursuing freedom, writing just to use my gifts, writing to contribute, and be part of a community.
Being in a community and sharing my writing has taken away the desire to compete, the desire to win. “When you know who you are, you don’t need to compete. Bernadette Jiwa said this in her book Story Driven. Being in a community of writers, I look forward to hearing about other’s people’s work, watching them advance. The world has room for all of our stories. My advice to anyone who wants to write is this, sit down with your paper, and your pen, and begin. Then share it. Then do it again, and again, and again.
Here is an exercise to try that I will leave you with. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open a new google doc or word doc. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Now stare at the empty page. That page is your friend, your companion. That page will be home for your best work. A page is a safe place. It is a five-star resort in the Maldives. Your ideas, stories, journal entries. They will be safe on the blank page. See your words living and thriving on that blank page. Soon people will come to that blank page to visit your words. Your stories. When the timer stops, pick up the pen, or put your hands on the keys. Take a deep breath. Your stories aren’t afraid. They want to be on the page, they want to be free. It will be ok. Now begin to write. Begin to type. Remember the words of Sting – “ If you love somebody set them free.