I have this little chalkboard on my desk where I’ve written the word Believe. It’s about giving myself over to the magic of writing, and trusting that when I sit down to write everyday, the magic will come.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a while ago that her first novel was the hardest thing she ever wrote, that the words were pulled from her while every ounce of her resisted. She felt like a failure, yet determined to finish. She said that for years, she knew no other way to write, and each novel was completed in a similar vein. Then one day she realised that perhaps she’d been looking at it all wrong.
For most of us, writing is like a calling, which sounds absurd in a way, but makes about the best sense. My life, has always revolved around stories. As an avid reader I knew no greater joy than curling up with a book from the youngest age, and there was always this feeling … this unspoken agreement that one day I would become a writer too. It’s hard to explain because it’s not like I was told that I should, or that anyone colluded and found some early spark of talent in me, I wasn’t one of those nine year olds whose first stories were published in the local newspaper or anything like that, but for me, even before anyone ever said anything praiseworthy about the words I committed to paper, there was always this feeling that writing was what I would be doing with my life. There was some internal force that drove me onwards whether someone liked what I wrote or not. It was only later when I began showing people what I’d written, especially when I decided to do it for a living that writing became hard, and it wasn’t the words or the creation itself exactly, but the expectancies around it that made it so.
It was a similar issue for Elizabeth Gilbert who realised something rather profound. Something she’d never considered before. While she knew that she loved writing … what if it loved her back?
It was worth considering. Not in the sense that if it loved her back, it would ensure that everything she ever wrote was beautiful and silver-winged. Like a parent loves a child it couldn’t do that, it couldn’t ensure that life was always rose-tinged. But if it loved her, and she decided to trust that it did, she had to ask herself was she greeting it the way someone who is loved and loves in return shares a greeting?
She wasn’t. In fact, most of us don’t. What most of us do, is greet our work with doubt and fear. Not always, not every single day, but often, and too frequently we give in to the doubts, and the fears, and we don’t believe that it will work out in the end.
By changing the way she looked at it, by believing, that it loved her back, she was able to greet each new writing day with trust – that they were both doing their best. After that, writing wasn’t ever as hard as it was when she first started, when she met it with resistance and it resisted her straight back.
Writing The Postcard, for me, has been an act of belief and trust. In many ways, it’s a story that just flowed without a lot of the insecurities that often held me back in the past and whole chapters appeared shooting from my fingertips.
Sure the insecurities are lurking around, especially now as I near the end and am preparing to publish, I can see Doubt lounging about at the corner of my eye, arms linked with Failure and that old nemesis of mine Deception, he always wants to point me out and include me in his club, so that I feel like I’m not a proper writer, just a pretender, but I’m learning to recognise them for what they are, some kind of evil survival mechanism that wants to keep me safe in my uncomfortable comfort zone. So I try squash them as much as I can.
Because when you commit to writing something in a short space of time, the only way to achieve it is to let go, and trust that the magic will appear, and somehow, when you take the leap, it does.
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