I’m just coming off of this month of 30 poems in 30 days. I laughed a lot. I took a closer look at some personal and hard things. I like poetry because it gives a way to share those things without oversharing (maybe??? maybe I overshare there too). At the beginning of the challenge, I wanted to do it because I had been starting to work with my poetry muse again (after a many-year hiatus) and I thought it would be a good way to cement my relationship with this part of me.
I committed to writing the 30 poems. I committed to being kind to myself in the process. Those were the only rules I put on it.
I didn’t write a poem every day. I did write a poem most days. I wrote more than 30 poems in that time frame. I shared at least 30 of them with you.
Maybe it’s a good time for me to talk about why I blog, because it ties into this.
When I first started blogging, it was because I had this pie-in-the-sky dream of being paid to write. I also had so many long-held feelings pouring out of me and blogging gave it a place to go. My ego hoped it would make me famous. Make money. That I would have some concrete marker of success to point to showing I was valid as a writer, communicator and human in the world.
And I was busy that first year. Most of the writing came easily ,but some of my posts were written with sheer willpower. I told myself to focus on quantity, not quality. I used the prompt, What is is like to be me in the world today? which I borrowed from Glennon Doyle, who used that prompt when she started mommy blogging.
But after a year of at least weekly posts, I hit a wall. I was exhausted. Not just from writing but from everything else going on in my life. Actually, just this last week I was reading a book that caused me to travel back in time to that year. And the image I had of myself was someone holding a completely unnatural posture, like one arm up, one arm down, head to the side, contorted smile on the face. Needless to say, I reached a point of complete exhaustion.
I took a writing class, hoping that would rekindle my interest. But mostly it just increased the volume of my inner critic in my head. I thought about an MFA in creative writing. I always liked school, ahem—my ego liked school—because I was good at it. And maybe the letters behind my name would give me the validation I was looking for. But the programs that felt serious enough would require me to quit my job (huge opportunity cost) and the ones that would allow me to keep working didn’t seem serious enough.
I took another writing class half-heartedly. But mostly I stopped writing altogether.
I read books about writing. Some people describe the butt-in-the-chair method. You can only be brilliant if you put your butt in the chair every day. This fit with the willpower strategy that dominated my 20s. So in bursts I would try the butt-in-the-chair strategy and it would work for a moment and then fail.
In most other areas of my life I had let go of willpower as a motivational technique. I didn’t apply willpower to eating, working out, housekeeping, work, friendships, family relationships. I probably used some in my parenting still because R was a threenager and there are moments of toddlerhood where you just have to hold on! But I had intentionally removed willpower from my tool kit wherever possible.
Yet with writing, I wasn’t sure where else to turn.
The day my divorce finally, finally finalized, and after months of being blocked, I picked up a blank journal that my mom gave me that same month, three years prior, when I first began to consider divorce. It had a butterfly painted on the front to make the shape of the letter M. I found a pen and walked to the nearest cafe. I ordered food and drink and I sat down, for the first time in a long time, and I wrote.
Before this, I did all of my journaling on the laptop because it was much quicker and easier to type than to write longhand. But the laptop got confabulated with my ego’s story of success with publishing. And I put it down completely to move past that. So for months, I wrote exclusively, page after page, longhand. My hand cramped from the years of disuse and my penmanship was terrible. But even so, seeing my words in ink from my own hand changed things.
I have such a generous blog readership. People have been so kind about my work. I wanted to continue to create. So slowly I made my way back into blogging. I planned on one or two posts a month, because that seemed like a more sustainable pace. And it’s been going pretty good.
But I want you to know that even now, even as I have been writing this today, I still have this inner critic prattling on about how no one wants to read this.
That it’s complete garbage.
I have an inner voice that tells me I am preachy. Self-righteous. Self-aggrandizing.
I have a voice that is embarrassed about things I have written in the past.
A big voice that tells me I should be further along with all of this than I am.
I have the voices of my mom and dad with me. My ex-husband. Ex-boyfriends. People I knew from high school and college, past coworkers.
There’s a voice that tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about.
One that wonders if this is all for naught.
I’m telling you all of this because maybe you have these voices too. And I have had to learn how to create along side of them. Not all of them are negative and, sure! they get louder and softer depending on the moment, but they are always there to some degree.
And the ways I have learned to live with them is to nurture my inner voice that says the experience of creating is really for me.
Getting to know myself has enriched my life more than anything else to date. Writing is a way for me to do that. It’s a way to process when life holds a mirror up to me and shows me a part of my light or my shadow. I have come to know my fears. My likes and dislikes. My aversion for decision making. My decisiveness. My competencies and my failures.
But in order to do this, the voice of compassion has to be there. Otherwise the examination itself is too painful to bear. The voice that says you are good, you are worthy, even as that voice sees the great ugliness inside of me.
And that’s what it took to write 30 poems. More than anything, it took kindness.
That’s what I hope you see.
Your power is in your ability to be kind to yourself.
That is the way to keep going.