Anne Lammot writes,
Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate. Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.
I stumbled upon this today, and it got under my skin. This past week has been frustrating for a whole host of reasons: Waiting for responses to submissions, and not knowing if they were even received. Waiting for responses from people to whom I’ve posed questions. Wondering if anyone benefits from anything I put energy into during the day. Waiting for acknowledgement that what I’m doing is good, is ok, is important enough to be doing. Encouraging people to not let other people’s actions dictate their happiness…… while I let other people’s actions, or lack thereof, dictate my happiness. I tend to be an advocate of letting things go, being present and finding deeper meaning in the little things in life. So, to top it off I feel vaguely hypocritical since I’ve been holding on tightly to things that want to stay slippery, and I’ve been absent from the present more often than I would like to admit. Basically, I’ve been putting my contentment under condition.
“I’ll feel better once I hear either way from the editor.”
“I’ll feel better when I know what’s going on with that event later in the fall.”
“I’ll feel better when one more person lets me know that they appreciate my efforts.”
“I’ll feel better when I can really know that my work matters.”
As Lammot acknowledges, it can feel desperate.
I got back into informal creative writing six years ago when my sister-in-law threw out the idea of starting a blog. So I started a blog and just kept returning to it month after month when I felt like I had something to say. Usually after writing something I’d think, “Well, that’s it. I will never again think of anything else to write.” Fast forward to the present, and I still think that, hundreds of blog posts later. Six years ago I remember thinking, “I wonder if anyone will ever even read this.” Fast forward to the present and I still think that, hundreds of blog posts and Facebook “likes” and comments later.
I’ve always been the quiet one. I used to fight it with my whole being and wish for nothing else than to be the one whom always knew what to say and could say it without hesitation. I don’t do that much anymore, and I’m thankful for that. Perhaps writing has evolved into my way of putting my perspective out there and making sure that I do have a voice. It’s been my way of being visible and of being heard and a way to try to make sense of what’s going on in life. It’s been like joining a conversation that I never knew how to join before I figured out how to speak without using my vocal chords. These days I do better at life as a verbal person – my day job, after all, requires having conversations with up to 20 different people per day. You could say that I’ve grown, as people are wont to do as they get older. But my voice is still most effective when it’s in words on a page.
So why then, with all of this writing and talking that I can now do, have I felt so frustrated this week? It could be the energy of waiting, which is a heavy energy to hold for a long time. It could be lingering burnout from a job that requires more talking that I’m suited for. It could be interacting with people who are dissatisfied with their lives and not knowing if my words are doing any good as they move through their struggles. It could be so many things. But I think at the core it’s because I haven’t been trusting my life to tell the truth of who I am. I’ve been relying on validation from others instead.
We are a species that wants and needs to understand who we are.
We so often tie our understanding of who we are to our perception of how others view us. And when we do that, we give away the power to live into our own truth.
At the end of the day, maybe all we can do, to use the words of Zadie Smith, is “tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it.”