A New Year, A Fresh Start — Recommiting

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I’ve been thinking the best way to start out this new year is to publish another blog post.  For anyone who has visited my site lately, it’s easy to see I’ve taken a sabbatical, with my most recent post being last September.

I’ve been in a silent stage, at least publicly.  I still journal madly, as writing is my way of processing and understanding and creating.  But on this blog, I’ve stalled out; I log on, stare at the screen and think, Not today.  And those are just the days when I actually make it that far.  There were lots of days in between where the thought of my blog would cross my mind and I would actually think, I should take that down, close it out, make it go away.

And I don’t think I even know why entirely.  I’ve had friends ask me why I quit blogging, and I don’t have an answer.  I ask myself the same question and try to be still enough to let the reason rise within me.

There are several thoughts that come to mind, but none of them are the reason in itself.  If I had to make an attempt to explain my silence, I would have to say there has been an overwhelming aversion, a distinct cloud of negative feelings when I consider writing for the public consumption.  It’s scary.  It’s vulnerable.

I haven’t had any harsh feedback or been told my writing sucks.  No one has been rude or hurtful about things I wrote.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I’ve had overwhelming support from my kids, from Permanent Roommate, and from others who keep an eye on my blog.  They have encouraged and confirmed and inquired as to my mental state about why I stepped back.

I think it’s safe to say that the Resistance (to use a Stephen Pressfield term, from his awesome book The War of Art), came from within myself.  I never want to sacrifice authenticity on the altar of publicity.  I never want to have to filter out my thoughts or my words in order to please my reading audience.  I don’t want to project an image of having it all together or even of falling apart worse than I already do sometimes.  I want honesty, not drama.  I want to write from the heart, with words that accurately and adequately describe my thoughts, feelings, beliefs.  I want to include both my absolute truths (of which I have very few) and my deepest questions of doubt (of which there are a lot).

It has been life-sustaining to keep my journal because I have no filter there, no words I can’t write, no thoughts too dark or too far-out, no dreams too large, no question too subversive.  I can write exactly what comes to my mind and know there’s safety in never having another soul critique it or look at me through different eyes for having seen what really does go through my mind and bleed out onto my paper via my pen.

But to remain content with only my private journal as my platform seems like a concession to cowardice.  It seems too small and safe and risk-averse.  Another one of my favorite parts of Pressfield’s book is near the end when he talks about whatever your gift, get it out there.  Share it.  Refuse to be selfish.  Contribute for the good of humanity, for your children, for yourself… I can hardly read that part without a lump and tears forming and a mild case of the shivers running over me.

Perhaps that was the catalyst in identifying why I’ve been silent on my blog; reading his words made it come to mind immediately, and I knew somehow he had touched on a very sensitive nerve in relation to my writing.

In the section of his book I’m referring to, he says something about “shaming the angels and spiting the Almighty who created you and only you with your gift”.  The way we do this, in his opinion, is to hoard our creativity, in whatever form it takes.

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I think we have a very hard time seeing our own gifts for what they are.  I love photography and beauty.  So for me, to take a picture that makes me inhale sharply upon seeing it… that can’t possibly be a talent or a gift; that’s merely me having fun, doing what I was born to do, expressing myself in an artistic outlet.

Stop and read that sentence again…  “that’s merely me having fun, doing what I was born to do, expressing myself in an artistic outlet.”

Of course, that’s a talent and a gift!  What else could it possibly be?  I have seen millions of photographs (and taken so many myself) that cause no reaction inside, have no effect on my life, because they are average, normal, or even terrible.  It takes no special skill or passion to take a snapshot.  But to take a breath-inhaling masterpiece (of which I’ve taken far too few), takes a love of the craft.  It takes an eye that sees what most people don’t.  It takes an artist.

I have a friend who paints wonderful scenes on canvas and another who dabbles in graffiti (only in sanctioned places, of course!) and another who just built an heirloom shelf that will outlive himself because of the time, attention to detail, and outpouring of himself that he invested in the crafting of it.  It’s a gift for his sister.  Anyone looking at it would never hesitate to believe that’s quite a gift.  Permanent Roommate can take flat, boring, bare pieces of wood and begin sanding and forming and shaping them into the most incredible model airplanes that not only impress with their looks, but fly remarkably well.  And he loves it; leave him alone in his garage workshop for a week and he can produce masterpieces.  I follow the blog of a woman who lives locally in my small town and she rides her bicycle to the quilt shop on Main Street, where she picks out colorful fabrics and threads and takes them home where she then proceeds to cut and arrange and stitch, transforming them into warm works of art we call quilts.  I could go on and on, talking about chefs who create food art; or welders who sculpt and fashion with metal, of all things; or great musicians who are so adept at touching our emotions through music.

The bottom line is that we are a race of extraordinarily creative beings, made in the image of a Creator God who is beyond words in his role of Artist.  And I have no trouble at all identifying, praising, and basking in the skills of others.  There’s nothing quite so thrilling to watch someone do something I cannot in such a way as to know they were born to do it.  It is easy to see when a master craftsman is at play…

…when it’s someone else.

So often, we do not recognize, acknowledge, or consider our own talents to be anything special.  We don’t realize they are what make us unique, sets us apart from each other, and that we desperately need to contribute those individual skills.  We need to gift the rest of the human race with our gifts.

When we lose sight of this, I think we tend to draw back.  Personally, I think, Anyone can write.  Everyone has thoughts of their own, and who cares what mine are?  Why should I clutter the internet and take up someone else’s time by writing what is most likely going through everyone else’s mind already?  Who cares?  Downplaying and excusing the gift.  And oddly enough, at that same time asking, What if I can’t do it well enough?  What if I can’t find the words to adequately express?  What if I write too much for the audience and lose the integrity of writing what is within?  What if I fail?  What if I succeed?  

Those are scary thoughts.  Putting yourself out there in the form of your art is vulnerable, and vulnerability is terrifying.  It is being naked and exposed in front of everyone in an area that is so close to our hearts and our true selves that should we take an arrow there, we feel we may never recover.

All this is written in part to explain my silence.  All this is what I’ve been thinking since September.  All this is why I’ve unleashed my words only in my journal, apart from reading eyes.  All this is why I toyed with the thought of taking that dang blog down permanently and kicking myself for ever thinking I had something to say that anyone else would ever care to read.

I recently read Glennon Doyle Melton’s book Carry On, Warrior and in it she said, “Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale.” And I said, “YES!  I get that!”  It may become my life motto, an explanation for who I am, my introduction at meeting new people.  (Well, maybe not, but that’s how closely I related to her words.)  And she pleaded with those who have a gift, whether it be writing or dancing or singing, to please do it. 

With friends, family, fellow authors and artists, all seeming to scream out the same message — Do it!  Share your gift!  Contribute!  Create!  Refuse to be silent and live small! — it eventually began to sink in.  I had kept my inner fire and the accompanying dragon caged inside long enough, letting it out only for carefully scheduled play dates in my journal.

Maybe this new year is the perfect time to release that dragon and let it romp around free and see what we can come up with.  One thing is for sure: now is the time we are given.  Now is what we have to work with.  Yesterday is gone and beyond our changing.  Tomorrow is even more uncertain than the gift we may or may not know we have.  Today is my day to create.

In the photo at the top, I thought of these past few months as like the tight bud on the left: closed, immature, and not yet ready to open.  And there’s an appropriate time, or maybe even many times, for that.  But the bloom on the right is what I would like to more closely resemble in the future: open, brilliant, offering the gift of its beauty and brightness and contributing what it has to give in whatever form it takes, worrying not about what others may look like or what they are offering or how they compare.

Simply being and doing and giving, living life by being who I am and who I was created to be.  Today.  No matter how scary or vulnerable or difficult.  No matter whether I see my contribution as special, unique, or worthy.  Trusting the message of those around me and the conviction that I have of their gifts, to see me through the crafting of my own.

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