I remember being in third grade and my teacher running monthly writing contests, beginning with October and ending in June. I remember being really excited to get home and write. Getting so involved with a Halloween story about a haunted house and a witch, a werewolf, a vampire, a ghost, a mummy, and a snake, and the story becoming so long and complex, that I didn’t finish before the contest deadline. I remember listening to the contest winner’s story being read aloud, and thinking to myself, “My story was waaaaaaayyyy better than that one; I’m going to make sure to finish and submit a story and WIN the next contest.”
And I did. I finished and submitted a story and won the following month’s contest and each month’s contest after that, until the end of the year. I remember about three months into my writing contest winning streak, my classmates simply rolled their eyes and groaned when my teacher told us that she was going to announce that month’s contest winner. They already knew that she was going to choose my submission. I always felt so pleased with myself that my classmates’ derision did nothing to dampen my victory.
Writing was fun back then. I simply sat at the kitchen table, or the coffee table, or my father’s desk. I opened up my spiral bound notebook, pencil in hand, and something marvelous would happen. I’d have wonderful ideas pouring from my brain, and I’d have to write quickly to keep up with them. I had this magical world that wanted to be explored, that was just waiting to burst forth with all sorts of surprises and adventures. Mermaids who rescued a little girl who was knocked out by lightning. Fairies and Unicorns who lived in the clouds and who danced on rainbows. Leprechauns who guided adventurers through an underground kingdom…animals who talked just like humans. I could become completely absorbed in my fantastical land of writing, and the rest of the world would melt away. I felt excited and motivated to see where my stories would go, how my characters would end up. It all seemed so free-flowing and easy–and FUN!
And then…I grew up.
I have one extraordinarily heavy anchor and one ferociously intimidating monster that accompany me wherever I go. They are most present when I contemplate writing something beyond the musings I record in my journals. The anchor is my tendency to procrastinate. The monster is my inner critic. Together they make writing a drudgery. The anchor weighs me down, it reminds me that I never get anything done. I’m dragging past projects around like Jacob Marley’s ghost dragging around coffers of evil deeds. I think about writing something fresh, and I’m reminded of a project I didn’t finish in seventh grade, or my yoga blog where I’ve gotten stuck on my exploration of the second of eight limbs of yoga. I think of knitting projects, sewing projects, and the dust bunnies that have collected along the baseboards. I think of laundry needing to be folded and letters that need to be written. I have put off so much; I couldn’t possibly have the time to navigate back to that place of creative, exuberant wonder. That wide open place where I could sit, open up a notebook and really be excited to write. Too much to catch up on, too much to do. Too much.
And the inner critic? This monster is the worst: heavier than the anchor, and infinitely more frightening. It tells me that nothing I do is good enough. Nothing I say means anything. No one will care what I think. This is a pointless, fruitless, self-serving, self-centered, over-indulgent waste of time. How DARE I think I have anything meaningful to say? How naive of me to think that I might have any new and exciting ideas. It stands right by me, looks over my shoulder, and says, “Don’t bother. It doesn’t matter what you think.”
I suppose this blog is a step in the direction back home to the haunted house, the mermaids, fairies, unicorns and leprechauns. I sense they’re waiting somewhere for me, still alive and well after all these years. Each word I type here, I might be scratching a few molecules off of that anchor, finding a little more lightness, a little more presence, a little more YES and NOW. Each sentence puts a little more distance between me and the critic that tells me I shouldn’t even try. Maybe one day I’ll will have written so many sentences that the critic will be millions of miles away. And I won’t be able to hear that monster, however loudly he screams at me to stop this exercise in futility.
Maybe, just maybe, after 365 days of this, I might be able to feel playful when I sit down to write. Writing might one day be fun again. Curious to see what will happen when that day comes.