It was just that one, heartfelt, kind string of words — that’s all it took! — to feel that the world was alright again.
Of course, if she felt the praise was unwarranted, or was mostly there for the gain of the person doing the praising, or perhaps only a mere reflection themselves (e.g. I am Consistently Kind. Or I am Consistently the Giver of Stalwart Advice — i.e. matching her own cardboard representation with one of their own) it made her cringe and recoil inside, and made her want to run, as though looking into a mirror of truth when she was most ugly.
But a friend — a true friend — one who had criticized or remained silent, when criticism or silence was perhaps warranted — who now offered heartfelt appreciation and praise, when good work had been done, even and especially when no (or few) others recognized it — could make her existence real again. That friend saw the shining moment in her, and recognized it, brought it into the light
I want to write nothing in private anymore. Yes that last section, above, was written with an audience in mind. But it was true, every word.
I wish I could relax; relax into the writing for myself and myself only, for old times’ sake.
But did I ever really write for myself? Before I “unblocked” myself, I could not write at all, even for myself. For nearly 20 years I did not write, even in my journals, except sporadically — an over-cherished poem here, a joyful exclamation-mark-filled note there; or the occasional angry rant, handwritten in the dark, scrawled diagonally across the back pages of a lined notebook
Why did I not write creatively, other than that, for so long? Because the inner critic, that nameless, genderless entity, ruled my fingers when faced with the blank page. I could not write with that critic criticizing my every word, even my every thought. That’s right, I remember now: I would have a thought, and the critic would say, before I could even write it: “that thought is not worthy of being written, or of being typed. Can’t you think better? Have you not a single perfect thought in that useless head of yours? No. Of course not. So you must remain silent. Do not waste the paper, nor the time. And above all, do not record your ridiculousness!”
Sometimes I would write something which I hoped perhaps to share somewhere, somehow. And then I would do the stupid thing of showing it to the people I whose approval I most craved (who were, of course, the people who were least likely to give approval), and they would peer at it and stroke their chins and perhaps ask a bemused question or two and perhaps suggest a rewrite, or worse, damn it with faint praise. And I would die a tiny death, knowing the Inner Critic, who now had capitals to its name, was right.
And what happened next was I came upon the transcribed podcast of an artist-turned-business-guru. The reason I came upon it was because I had a plan to start a business — an editing business — a near-impossible business to reasonably start, by the way, in the way that business gurus seem to unanimously suggest — i.e. with content marketing — for how on earth can an editor, who is meant to perfect things, risk having typos on their own site, without hiring an editor themselves? At least, that was my own way of thinking — and I could not decide: business name or personal name? And one of this guru’s podcasts/posts covered that topic. So DuckDuckGo brought me to that post. And though that post did not help me decide on a name, it did lead me eventually to another post — something about forming habits. I think it’s so strange that I cannot even remember the exact title of that post, nor exactly the phrasing, when it was so pivotal in that moment, for me. But the gist was clear, based on age-old advice/knowledge: positive habits must be formed, if you want to succeed at anything at all. And this suggested habit was to start each morning by writing.
Of course, I had heard this advice at least six times before (in another article, this self-same business guru had brought up the marketing rule of seven — yes, of course I was on his email list now, since he’d promised early access to his eventual book — i.e. that we need to hear things seven times before we absorb them). The main time being through the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, which a dear friend in an former writing group had given me, many years before. I had started morning pages (stream-of-consciousness, unedited thought-purge writing, first thing in the morning), which were revolutionary and important for getting past the inner critic, yes. But I had never managed to stick to it.
Something in this particular post flipped a switch in me that got me doing the morning pages near-religiously. What was that magic ingredient? I suppose it was the proof in this podcaster/blogger’s own output, of how this habit had evidently and ultimately produced a shiny finished product. That, combined with my having long ago found and downloaded some free digital journalling software — ViJournal, beloved entity, sorry it’s defunct now — with password-protection. That last part was crucial, actually. It’s important to feel safe, while purging private thoughts.
The proof was in the output, yes. This guru’s website design at that time was near-perfect. He also made near-perfect art, accompanied by perfect photographs of his process; he even had perfect podcast intro music and sound engineering, and a perfect, high-functioning website. PERFECT!!!! Well, 90% perfect, at least, to use his words. We should aim for 90% perfect.
So he had this energy-filled podcast which was funny and fresh and sincere and filled with his friends and with good advice, and he (or actually, his wife, I believe, at that time) was transcribing the podcasts into these amazing, beautifully-formatted ultra-long blog posts, which I, intense online-rabbit-hole-falling-I-mean-business-researcher that I am/was, had thus stumbled across via Internet keyword search.
(Note to everyone: there is usually an incredibly talented, near-selfless-at-the-time unheralded spouse, cooking meals and taking care of other unsung nurturing/business/admin work, in the shadows behind any prolifically-creative married person. Thank you husband, in my case now [though he never sees or touches or has anything to do with this blog, he does make great pizzas. And his job pays the bills]. And thank you self, in the years when my husband was building his businesses.)
Though I did not know for sure at the time, I was going through menopause. The hormones likely made me as intellectually, emotionally and physically charged as a teenager. This group of millennials’ creative energy clicked perfectly with my own in that moment and as I tend to do, I latched on to it and rode the waves. I began to write 1000 words per day, during an hour or two of time that I carved out before the others in my household woke up — as the article/podcast had suggested, through “setting the sage” or preparing for that event the night before.
And though my worshipful love-affair with this newfound business-community movement soon fizzled out, my 1000-word per day morning pages habit continued steadily for several years. And I came to many realizations about myself because of it. That was the most valuable thing. I got to know myself, and a bit more about what I actually wanted.
But: were those words *really* for just for myself, I would like to know? since I started this post complaining about “how I can’t seem to write for myself anymore”?
Not usually, come to think of it. Here, look, even now, I find myself writing for an audience again, though I’m typing into my journal. “Entry” became “post.” When, in this piece, did that shift happen? After that one line of truth, at the beginning of the page, and again somewhere in the middle.
So anyway, back then, I was in fact writing a line of two of truth, a shitty line or three, shall we say, that was just for me. And then suddenly things would change, and flow, or not flow, and I was writing for an audience again, sometimes an audience of one — my future self; sometimes for what I began to call in my head “the future alien archeologists” (I always imagine that thousands of years into the future, alien archeologists will unearth or extract our digital archives); sometimes it was directly written to my Inner Critic, in a conversation, as it were, through which a new personality — LIAV — my Little Inner Answer Voice — was born.
Or sometimes, it was for an imagined audience of folks like me, who were experiencing whatever I was going through at that time. Ostensibly that last type of writing would be to publish on a blog, perhaps a business blog. But I couldn’t bring myself to publish it, though I was already practicing making websites on various platforms; websites that were never yet shared.
Why did I not share, back then? Because I couldn’t bear to be wrong. I couldn’t bear to be imperfect (not even 10%). I couldn’t bear the thought of being potentially weighed and measured and found wanting. And I couldn’t bear to “launch to crickets” (i.e. silently judging crickets, I imagined).
So once again, were those words really just for myself, and myself only? No. Never. (Well, then again, “never say never” — another idiom from my dad, my earliest and most dedicated editor, btw.) Those first lines of shit were always for me. (I think dad would cringe to read that last line.) But the remaining lines of possible shit were their own creations. Just as this crazy post is yet another self-made creation! I did not mean to write this, today, in other words. It just came out from that one line or few lines of truth. And yet, I think in spite of its possible inherent shittyness (should that be with a y or an i in the middle? those red dotty lines seem to like neither), it just might be useful to someone. So I may as well hit publish on it.
And this, my friends, is how publishing addiction works. Muahahahaha…. try it! You must assimilate. Resistance is futile. (Said with Borg voice.)
By the way, in “real” (i.e. private) journalling, in my experience, and even in this strange kind of publishing-addicted faux-journalling, there is always a proverbial golden nugget that turns up, in all that coal. What is the golden nugget in this case? For me, it’s that I may as well embrace my newfound publishing addiction, and attempt to love these words unconditionally, as they come out of me, regardless of what happens to them afterwards.
After all, there are worse things to be addicted to than the sharing of personal stories. In fact, I believe sharing personal stories is perhaps the key to world peace. And love. And creativity. And knowledge. And personal development. And acceptance of others.
In other words, the golden nugget is self-acceptance. Only when we accept who we already are, can we hope to become anything different/better. And accept others, for whom they are, too.
Something like that.
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. Thank you for reading. ❤︎