Writing makes us all into ridiculous, insecure weirdos.
I want to tell you a story from a writing retreat this year.
On that last day of retreats, we all wake up in silence. You can hear gently tapping keyboards, slippered footsteps, birds, breakfast getting made. There’s coffee brewing. There are books about writing. We tell the group the night before to tune into whatever their inner writer needs; a bath, a letter, a book. We remind them that writing isn’t just about putting words down, it’s also about nourishing the part of us that wants and needs to write.
At the end of silence at this particular retreat, we were checking in and one participant was just feeling awful. Her voice was thin and her face downcast. “I got a few things done,” she said, “But not as much as everyone else. I kept looking at <Name Withheld>. She was writing so passionately! She wrote the whole time! God, I wish I could be more like her.”
Name Withheld looked up with big round eyes and a tilted head. “Me? Are you fucking kidding? My project’s been stalled for hours. I was writing an angry letter to my husband!”
Oh, the laughter in that moment! Booming, insecurity-busting laughter. For all our talk of self-compassion and nourishment, we were all secretly comparing ourselves to her.
Here’s the heart of it: Writing makes us all insecure and ridiculous. It’s fine. It’s normal. We’re all in it together. I sometimes think of it as a garden — the Garden of Insecurities — a sudden ecosystem that grows all around us when we’re vulnerable, open and flowing. The tall stems whisper:
If you can’t write like her why bother?
If you’re not as confident as him, why try?
Look at that person over there, there’s a *real* writer.
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have some version of this in their head the entire time that they’re engaged in a creative practice.
And yet, it doesn’t have to stop us. We can feel insecure and still write. We can feel not-enough and still belong. We can feel terrified and still take chances. It’s actually the only way.
This is one of the reasons that we put so much focus on positive feedback at Firefly. It’s not just that it feels good. It’s that we’re so perpetually hard on ourselves that we rarely get to truly experience our voices or even know what we want to say. Or, maybe we’re lucky and we do break out of our negative self-talk long enough to get some words down… And some asshole says, “Your characters don’t make any sense to me” and wham, it’s closed again. That happens in creative circles all the time. I don’t want that for you. Ever.
What I’m saying is this — your fear, uncertainty and insecurity are a-okay with me. They have to be, because they’re not going anywhere. And, I will always be working to help you turn away from those voices, come back to your work, and just keep writing.
Meanwhile, the garden will grow. And yes, it will often be gnarly. But it will also connect you to every other creative person who has ever taken a chance on their vision and their voice. And just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to make flower crowns or roll around in the foliage. (Switch to visuals — oh my sweet dog.) Come back, come back, put the next word down, then the next. The voice in your head doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth. In fact, it lies all the time.
For me, Firefly does this. It helps me turn my attention away from insecurity and towards the power of my next word and sentence. Maybe the same is true for you. Or maybe it might be. And if so, there’s a whole menu of new fall options that open for registration today, from workshops to our canoe camping retreat, to quiet writing time. Also, our newest coach Sophia is officially taking clients, and our Writer In Residence Anna is offering three by-donation manuscript reviews with publishing advice this fall. Also there’s a beautiful poem sitting right here. There are so many ways to start.
Remember — a writer is a person who has the urge to write and acts on that urge. It’s not a person who is constantly confident. It’s not a person who moves forward without fear. It’s just a person who keeps stumbling back to the page, imperfectly, over and over.
All the mush,