Image courtesy of serc.carleton.edu

I’ve written a piece, a personal piece, a piece that I honed and edited and re-worked until I felt proud of it. Now, when I read it through, it makes my heart sing. I’ve pitched it to newspaper editors. So far, I’ve had one polite decline.

Every morning I open my inbox with anticipation and a growing sense of urgency. Every morning my unfulfilled desire for a positive reply eats further into my equilibrium. I have to make a concerted effort to throw off the cloak of disappointment that seeks to bind disillusion to me.

One of the hardest things about writing is separating your ego from the work. Who isn’t excited by the prospect of having their words published? Who doesn’t feel a thrill of pride when an editor deems their thoughts worthy of print and promulgation?

But those feelings stifle that elusive spring of creativity. Like a kidnapper pulling a bag down over your head, they block out the light of inspiration and leave you to wander in the darkness of uncertainty, no end in sight. Every day that fails to yield a positive result gives more authority to the voice in my head that whispers, “Well, what did you expect? You’re not really a writer are you? Did you think you had some kind of gift that made you stand out from the all those others striving for written clarity of meaning? Don’t kid yourself!” Each day it’s harder to ignore.

But there’s a weapon I can use against this assault. It’s one I’m becoming more familiar with through my study and practice of mindfulness. It’s been there all along but I learnt to overlook it a long time ago – to the point where I no longer even registered it’s existence, like a piece of furniture that’s remained unmoved in a room for as long as you can remember. It’s called Choice. I remind myself that the growing urgency and creeping self-doubt are symptoms of pressure that I am putting on myself. I have no-one else to answer to. It’s purely my wish to get my piece published. I can just as easily choose to let it go. I carry my art within me, I can write as many pieces as I wish and send each one out into the world, like paper boats floating down a stream. Each one, as I polish and perfect it, will give me the same pleasure and sense of achievement. And each one will add to my skills, not deplete them. Outside validation is irrelevant and only carries the value I attribute to it. I don’t need it to acknowledge my worth.

Yesterday I started writing another piece, one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Over the past few weeks, every time I thought of something I wanted to include in it, a frisson of pure joy ran through me in anticipation. THAT’S what it’s all about. Even if I had a hundred pieces published in the paper, if I felt nothing while I wrote them what would be the point? I’ll get through to those media Philistines when I’m meant to. In the meantime, I’ve realised I have all I need to be happy. I guess I should thank them for that!

Ray Bradbury summed it up when he said,

“I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.”