Four years and two moves back, I met regularly with two mom friends who also write. A couple times a month we'd gather in the evening over tea and talk writing: goals, how-to, accountability. One was writing as a fairly steady job, one contributed regularly to a couple magazines and blogged, one worked (non-writing) part-time and blogged some. The last being me.
When the circle came to me I went through my stuff, but I was generally wrought with angst. I knew I loved to write and felt the "I'm built like this" deep down, but at the same time it seemed pointless. There were so many out there already writing.... and writing so well. Writing about... the same topics I wrote about, the ones that pulled my heartstrings. Everyone already read these folks. Why add volume to a full, well-covered landscape? I couldn't say anything better than they'd said it. And with everything already out there, there wouldn't be anything new to say. (Anyone feel me here?)
It got to where - when it was my turn- we'd laugh about how our writer's group was my therapy, my counseling hour, feet up on the proverbial couch unpacking insecurity and confusion about purpose.
How being a writer's like being a church
It wasn't till several years later, at the tail end of a stint of actual counseling (life-changing, by the way... but that's a post for another time) that I had a breakthrough. Being a writer is like being a church. You don't find an excellent church and say, "Well this one's great, it's doing everything well, and people are coming and thriving... No need for any more churches." It doesn't work like that. For folks who go to that church - great! But that church isn't, and can't be, for everyone. For some the geography's wrong. For others the liturgy or the music or the teaching style doesn't work. Others might not know anyone there - no one invites them. Bottom line: we don't just want one church, however great. We need many churches, everywhere and every type. The concept seems crazy obvious, I know, but somehow this analogy (imperfect as it is) broke everything open for me.
Here's the point: just because other folks are already doing something well, doesn't mean we shouldn't - if it's what we're made for - do it too. We do it at our pace, our scale, our style, our reach. Some folks may show up to our work as "regulars" and others drop in occasionally; either way those who come know where we are and what we're about. And it's worth it, this work - doing what we can, where we are, meeting who comes.
Where for me the thing is writing, for you maybe it's something else. Art, sewing, photography, whatever. If we're going to live the adventures we were put on this green earth to live, we're going to have to wrestle down these realities.
So the freedom came after the "I'm a like church, and other writers are like my fellow churches" truth soaked in, and my soul came out of the comparison and insecurity trap. I could write without angst (at least, with much less) and enjoy others' writing without my self-worth getting so rolled up in it.
Writing's not about me
Fact is (and it helped a lot too when I realized this), writing's ultimately not about me. It's about the truth and goodness and beauty that are the quiet backdrop to every notion worth apprehending and every resonating theme. None of us own these. But they form the master link joining us all; they're the heart of authentic connection.
Connection is communication, and communication is about relationship. My relationship with myself, my relationship with God (who after all started the whole thing), my relationship with others - those I know personally and those I don't. The words and concepts we write or read are just the connectors, weaving the fabric between souls.
"Sharing the love"
Once I felt freedom to write, angst-free, then joy came. I also felt fuller joy in reading other people's work. I could love without getting myself mixed up in it. This makes sense because isn't it like freedom, always, to beget love? First freedom, then love, then generosity of spirit. (Real) love, then share the love.
Hope*Writers, the online writing group I joined recently, has been a great place to interact with other writers, read their stuff, learn together, and mutually encourage. I've become acquainted with a bunch writers I admire - inspirers, stirrers of my soul... Fellow sojourners in this living of adventure and wrestling of soul. So today, dear reader, I "share the love" in (what I now see as) the true spirit of the term. Here are four writers, new to me, whom I like a lot.
-Cynthia Stuckey, who blogs at HappyGoStuckey. My favorite recent post of hers is "For when you don't know what to do." Here's a snippet: "My place is here, in this blue house with these people and these countertops that warp in the heat. My place is using my hands to do what they can - and holding joy in my small circle of influence...:"
-Meghan St. Clair. My favorite recent post of Meghan's is "Draw a wide circle." From that piece: "Being alone is the longest journey humanity has to endure. I want him to feel welcome and at home when he is with us. For however short the amount of time we entertain him, I hope his loneliness subsides."
-Elli Johnson, who blogs at The Hippo Chronicles. Her comments on "The Joy of Missing Out" ("JOMO") were perhaps my favorite thoughts in any Advent post this Christmas. See Alternative Advent Calendar, Part 1. "This is not an evening to be wasted by hurrying around getting jobs done, this time is a gift to be enjoyed...Have a bath. Get an early night. Feel smug about it. Relish the inactivity... Embrace it. It will change your life."
-Amber Kanallakan, who blogs at Her Yes Legacy. Fun thing about Amber is I know her in Real Life too (always a fun thing to discover online); we overlapped years ago in California. A post of Amber's I like is "That time I risked and almost died. Kinda." Excerpt: "Sometimes risk doesn't produce a happy ending. Sometimes we risk and end up driving to work in tears. Sometimes we risk and our heart ends up a little harder. But we learn. We learn how to risk better next time."
Thanks, girls, for the work you do and the part you play. Thanks for playing it well. You grow me, in the reading.
And so you, my dear reader-- what about you? When it comes to engaging with others in an area of passion or your passion, where do you find yourself on the insecurity <---> enjoyment/gratitude continuum? And why?