Last night, in the tub, I started reading Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map. I’ve had the book since we moved in 2017, when I found an un-creased copy at our local thrift shop.
I’ve been nagged lately by a strong desire to start writing again. And I’ve refused to listen because, frankly, I’m afraid. I look back at the days I used to blog regularly: where did all that inspiration come from? What well of creativity was I able to draw on so dependably that I found the space to write as often as a couple times a week?
I guess back then I had the compelling need to share my story with the world. Mine was a journey of self-exploration, and it excited me so much that I desperately needed share the narrative, to lend expression to the experiences I was having.
I don’t know if it’s that I’m a more private person these days. I sometimes wonder if social media hasn’t tainted the way we —I — choose to express myself now. The practice of writing in and of itself is a strange paradox: I can’t help but express myself with the audience — the listener — at the forefront of my mind while at the same time cherishing the sacred privacy of my words.
That’s the struggle I keep bumping up against currently: do I want to be heard, truly?
And beyond that, even: do I deserve to be heard?
I’m 48 pages into The Desire Map, and it only took those 48 pages to force me to face head on the difficulties I’m having coming to terms with my desire to write.
It only took those 48 pages to coax into awareness the fact that my fear has been withholding the trust I have in myself to write.
I struggle as a writer because I don’t have any clue where I want to focus my attention. Yes, it used to be easy to tell the stories of my self-exploration, to lay myself bare with all that invigorating sense of discovery. But I recognize, too, that self-exploration is a vulnerable affair, and sometimes, it doesn’t feel right to commit all that awkward, fumbling evolution to the tangibility of a narrative.
In fact, I think it’s for this reason that once my blogging petered off and I was no longer sure how I wanted to express myself, I deleted those many years of introspection. While I appreciated my willingness all those years to experience outwardly, it was also important for me to be able to release the stories I had told. They were my stories, yes, but I no longer identified with the person I was when I wrote them. Blogging always offered me the emotional release I needed to process my experiences, but it became too filtered. I was writing for an audience, and while my words were vulnerable, for sure, that invisible audience prevented me from being able to fully surrender to the growth of those experiences.
From there, much of my self-exploration turned inward and, in the process, became more real, more raw. Journalling my feelings by hand led me into a place of discomfort, of facing my shadows and trudging through the real murky bits that didn’t fit into the tidy, curated process of writing for an audience.
So here I am now, knowing full well that the spark of desire to write that I’ve been ignoring these past few years is finally starting to catch, but that I still don’t understand what to do about it.
I suppose I’ve always held the belief that writing needs to fit into a niche, and with having let go of what I’d perceived as my niche — that ongoing narrative of self-reflection — I’m not sure what the hell it is I want to write about.
I can’t limit my words to one genre because I don’t know what the hell it is I have to say. But, I also don’t want to deny myself the ability to write because of the fact that I don’t know what it’s going to look like.
I recently finished a book written by a colleague — it was written a few years ago, and he’s unaware I’ve been reading it since coming across it at the library. I was commenting to R. last night about how good the writing was, and how reading something so well-written, particularly by someone who exists to me in my day-to-day life, makes me feel inadequate about my own abilities. Makes me feel like a fraud for having ever referred to myself as a writer.
“But,” he reminded me, “it’s not like you’ve ever tried.”
My first response to that was to be completely affronted: how dare you imply I’ve never tried, just look how hard I work at carving out my identity as a writer — the old self-defense mechanism. Fortunately, this sentiment was fleeting as I took an honest look at what, exactly, I’ve achieved in my writing, beyond the degree I paid heftily for.
The reality of it seeped in quickly: I’ve never taken a risk when it comes to my writing.
The times few times I tentatively edged myself out on a limb, wrote a few lifestyle articles for online magazines, I shied away when things got too uncomfortable. “I write on my terms,” is how I justified it to myself. “I just can’t write about things that don’t inspire me.”
Which is true, and I don’t begrudge myself for feeling that way, but I also recognize in hindsight how my excuses limited me from moving beyond my safety zone.
So it’s true: I’ve never really taken a risk as a writer. I’ve never fully invested my energy into making writing my focus, into letting it guide me towards what the hell it is I have to say.
I was laying in bed last night in that floating, heady space that came as a result of the couple tokes of joint I’d smoked and the hour-ish I’d spent soaking in a scalding-hot epsom bath, tumbling what I’d read in The Desire Map around in my mind.
The whole premise of the book, from what I understand so far, is to not simply look at the goals we set for ourselves, but to uncover why we set those goals — what are the feelings we’re associating with the goals — and to explore the meaning of the feelings instead.
I desire to write, I told myself as I lay in bed last night. But why? What are the feelings I glean from the desire to write?
Creativity, self-fulfillment, expression, reflection.
I like to tell stories. I especially like to capture the routine elements of our day-to-day lives and make them a story. That, that is the type of narrative I’ve always loved, have always been drawn to. The absurdity of our daily lives, our weird separate-but-together-ness, the strange little things that tie us all together, the experience of relating and of celebrating that communion.
So here I am. I’m going to try writing again, and I’m not going to worry about whether it’s tidy and perfect and fits into a niche. I’m going to try to figure out what the hell it is, exactly, I want to write about, and some of that will likely involve the absurdity of our daily lives, and some of it will probably be rambling introspection not unlike the content of this very post; some of it will be good, and some of it will be garbage, and honestly, I don’t really fucking care anymore, so long as I’m here, willing to take the risk.