I was just asked by my awesome new friend SARK to write about why I write. Now mind you, I write every day. For hours. Writing is what I do. I've written three books, countless magazine articles, and over 350 blog posts, in addition to the private journal writing nobody sees. Writing comes totally naturally to me. And yet, faced with this task, I found myself paralyzed. How do you write about writing? I mean I'm a big fan of Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird. And she does it so brilliantly! But I struggled. Then I muddled through. This is what came out.
From the time I was six, when a family friend gave me a leather-bound blank book and invited me to write in it, I have been a writer. I was offered my first publishing deal when I was 11 (I turned it down -- they were my private stories, after all. Sheesh!).
Throughout medical school and my OB/GYN residency, writing helped connect me to my experience. And since founding OwningPink.com, it's even more true that something isn't real until I write about it. Translating an experience into words somehow grounds it for me. It's as if writing is the filter through which my whole life sifts. It's also the vehicle with which I communicate what I'm here on this earth to do -- empower women to own their femininity so they can heal, connect, and thrive.
But writing about writing is like dancing about mathematics. The creative process is in some ways so ephemeral and beyond words for me. But what I can say is that writing isn't something I DO. It's more like something I BE. Writing about writing is like describing how you breathe. You know how to do it -- you do it in your sleep. But how do you describe it?
And yet even saying that implies some otherworldly gift I have that you might suspect you lack. Writing might feel like trying to nail Jello to a tree for you, and you may be suspicious of the ease with which I write. But don't be fooled. Writing is natural for me -- but it hasn't always been. And although it feels natural now, it's often not comfortable. Making peace with the discomfort has been an essential part of the creative process for me.
Writing is about releasing the obstacles that keep you from putting forth what you know is true. Anyone can do it -- anytime. It's more about letting go of the limiting beliefs and false obstacles that get in your way.
Whether I'm writing my books, my blog, magazine articles, or notes on a cocktail napkin, the secret sauce is being authentic and getting out of my own way. Sure, I sit my ass in the chair every day. The discipline of daily writing has served me well. But it takes more than discipline. It's about seeing the world with fresh eyes and viewing every experience through the lens of a writer. A kayaking trip when I fought with my husband gets transmuted into a lesson in going with the flow and being the captain of your life. My hesitation about an ocean swim turned into a dolphin encounter and becomes a lesson in overcoming fear. It's about finding the story in the most ordinary experiences which yields Anne Lamott-like writing about the bigger messages in the small but meaningful experiences we all have everyday.
My writing has definitely changed over the years, most notably when I decided to stop considering who might read what I write. My best stuff channels through me when I pretend nobody else will ever see it. The light that shines through when I'm that transparent sparkles off the page. For my second book, I wrote more about me and my vagina than you probably ever wanted to know (in fact, my brother decided to sit that one out!). But that's just how I write. I speak my truth. And then I must release it into the world, set goals and then surrender attachment to outcomes, and let it go.
Even looking back over what I've written about writing, it seems somehow wrong. It makes writing seem elitist, and it's just not. My process has been all about continually peeling back the layers of the onion -- eliminating the junk that gets in my way and keeps me from writing my truth. It’s been a decision to release caring about what everybody thinks, forget about being perfect, and start writing from the heart. It's about writing shitty first drafts -- over and over and over, and trusting that they're good enough.
Writing is about opening your heart and letting your truth spill out. Writing is about bringing ideas to life, about processing your life, about sharing your truth. I learned to write this way from my teacher and author of Writing From The Heart, Nancy Aronie. Try out a few prompts from Nancy:
Try completing these sentences and just let yourself write. Write a shitty first draft and don't worry who will see it. Write your whole truth and nothing but your truth. Pour your heart out and watch the magic that flows out. The ability to write this way is accessible to everyone, and you too can be a writer. All it takes is saying it out loud. Do it now. Say, “I’m a writer.” Now go -- write!
And so it shall be.
Do you write? Do you long to write? Does something hold you back? If you feel inspired to do so, share what you've written. And tell us what works for you!
I believe in you,
PS: SARK has so many fabulous resources for Owning Creativity -- check out this one on Juicy Journaling.
PPS: Do you dream of writing but it's not quite happening? Are you ready to get out of your own way so you can bring your writing dreams to life? Sign up for this free mini e-course, my love -- and JUST DO IT!
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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