The very first time I was commissioned to write for a publication, I remember becoming engulfed in panic.
I was overcome with anxiety about whether or not I would be able to pull it off. This was the very first time I was being invited to step into my role as a professional writer. It was everything I ever wanted, yet I found myself completely terrified at the enormity of what that represented. It was the first time I had to prove my creative worth. All I wanted to do was run and hide. The pressure of not accomplishing perfection in the task at hand was too much to take.
But backing out wasn’t an option. I had already committed to the task and its pending deadline. I grappled with my anxiousness and agonised over every single sentence that made up the paragraphs of that 200-word café profile. I can’t remember how many times I deleted and re-wrote sentences during the process of putting it together. Eventually, in the most gradual way, the threads of what I wanted to say all came together. I had actually managed to make it work. Nothing I’ve achieved in past work experiences has come remotely close to making me feel the same level of accomplishment as what I do through the writing process. It serves to offer far more than simply being a creative outlet. What it pushes me to do, each and every time I’m approaching a new project, is demand me to extend myself.
Even though the debris of anxiety settled after that first written assignment, when it came to repeat the process with a different publication, that sense of unease managed to crawl its way back and I felt myself wrestling with it all over again. This time I managed my unease a little better. It was still an agonising process, but the biggest difference was that I caught myself getting tangled up in the worry about my ability to make it work.
The new trajectory my life was taking through the writing process wasn’t just about stepping into being a professional writer, it was revealing much more than that. The unease was reflecting my greatest insecurities and doubts about my abilities through a creative outlet that I revered so much. The pressure of potentially failing would validate my incapability. Facing that was terrifying, because it meant there was a chance that it could be true.
What’s most important to us can often completely disempower us. In our efforts to bring the best we can be of ourselves, we manage to stifle our capabilities into inaction. The greatest words of advice I received from an accomplished creative after telling them how crippled I felt by the writing process was hearing that: I was putting my writing on a pedestal. It was a complete revelation. I recognised exactly what they meant. In an effort to do my best, I was inadvertently stifling my creative ability by allowing myself to become overshadowed by fear.
I still agonise over my sentences. I worry from time-to-time if it’s going to work. But I’ve become far more familiar with my patterns. I recognise them and anticipate their arrival. I’ve learnt how to work through them. They intimidate me far less than what they used to. One way or another, I know that the threads always manage to come together and in the end I trust that the process supports me in finding a way to make it work.
Happy travels…Paula x