If You’re Not Writing, You’re Resisting

BookFor a few years now, my husband told me. My business coach did too. Everyone told me I was wasting my time on paid writing work that didn’t fill my soul. But it’s hard when you’re freelancing and getting paid. It’s hard to say, “No” when you don’t know when your next big check will come in. But these were the first two signs. Another one had come years before.

Several years ago, I received a handful of Steven Pressfield’s book. I quickly devoured The War of Art, but it was only when I got into Turning Pro that my life changed dramatically. Here are a few nuggets that started the stone, that rippled across the river and that finally had a big impact on the way I perceived my writing:

“When you sit down to do your work, do you leave our web connection on?

It can be fatal, keeping up with the Kardashians.”

“When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction.”

“We usually think of breath throughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

It’s that last statement that really stuck with me. I realized after reading his book that everything I was getting “busy” doing, finding jobs, taking unfulfilling writing gigs and even playing games on my phone was taking me away from my real dream of publishing a children’s book, short stories and personal essays.

I am ashamed to admit that I bought into the belief that I could get what I wanted without the time and effort involved. I had devoted and sacrificed a lot to get to be freelance writing for the past 9-years. But that took research, networking and time. I didn’t give my next dream that same fervor.

When I read Pressfield’s work, I realized that all the other “stuff” I was doing was another way I was unconsciously distracting myself out of fear. I was embarrassed by the pieces I was sending off before they were given their fair due. I let time fall away from me while I was shopping online or searching for the next big writing gig. After having my second baby and took time off from all of my paid work, I had enough space to reflect on what I was doing-I was getting good at work I didn’t really want to do, and I was moving further away from my dreams.

The good news is that I got the wake up call and on the path now to turning pro. I’m working on the stuff I’m excited about daily. I’m attending conferences, reading books on the topic and writing at home and writer’s group. Thanks to finally waking up, I’m committed and hopefully that will bring me that much closer to my dreams.

Why I Write

{Photo from caprisco}
{Photo from caprisco}

It’s taken me years to curate enough courage to admit the secret I’ve always known. It was evident in my early obsessions-well-worn books, hardcovers and paperbacks causing a backpack strap indention in my shoulders. It explained why I begged my grandmother for a typewriter and ripped away the crisp holiday paper as if there was a toy underneath. I devoured the book catalog we got in school as if it were a menu, salivating as I thumbed through each delicious page. And while other kids played sports or with their Barbie, I found calm in the click of my new electronic typewriter and the yellowed pages of library books.

I was extremely shy and yet when my high school English teacher argued that my writing was “bad,” I told him with as much courage as my soft voice could muster that he was wrong. I stormed out with a ticket from the admissions office-a free pass to skip his class. I was elated when I discovered the reason for my excused slip-I won a journalism award for my article in our newspaper. My hot flushed face quickly melted into a pool of sweet revenge.

All this and I still waffled between Environmental Science, Business and English in college. I changed majors multiple times. But since I barely passed Accounting and was terrible in Science, I surrendered to the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to get great grades in anything else but English.

After college, I idled in front of Borders’s career section. It was an ordinary night on the store’s dirty floor when I finally decided to do it. I had always been interested in the psychology behind the characters I read. Plus, I was bored, restless, and fresh out of ideas of what to do next in my hometown of Hawaii. It seemed like the easiest answer in the world to jump on a plane and move my life to California. I had a purpose now. I would get a graduate degree in counseling psychology.

Three years later with my shiny new degree, I was back where I started more in debt, and confused as ever. That’s when I met the woman that would change my life.

She was a friend of a friend I met at a party. There was nothing extraordinary about her or our meeting except that she told me she was a writer. Writer, I thought my heart beating quickly. This time, I couldn’t ignore how I was feeling. It stirred a forgotten desire, which started a domino effect, which turned my full-time job into a part-time gig. In the light of my dreams, I had nil motivation to continue and I finally quit.

It was difficult, but I finally relinquished my need for stability so that I could pursue my dreams. This year marks my 7th year as a freelance writer. I’ve been tempted to give up and get back to mind-numbing corporate work for the stability, the pay, and the ease that comes from a traditional career. But I keep surprising myself in my efforts to stay.

Being a writer is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. As I sit down in what seems to be an extremely safe and benign seat, I’m battling my inner critic. I’m stuffing down deep fears that I’m still not good enough. I’m always terrified as I put my fingers to the keyboard. But whether I failed infamously yesterday or mess up catastrophically today, experience has taught me, with certainty saved for nothing else in my life that I will be back here at my computer again tomorrow.

*I will be starting a writer’s group in my area of Mililani and will be offering personal consultation and workshops in 2015.

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