Yesterday a mentor of mine from grad school said the words “I call bullshit” to me. Now, while admittedly, my first response was the panic of bruised ego- one whose suddenly been made aware of itself- she was right. Minutes before, I had said the words “I don’t have any place to write” in response to the question why aren’t you writing? I had just told her that I had decided not to return for my second year of my graduate program, and together, we were trying to figure out why.

I started with a grocery list of reasons, ones you might give someone you only know in passing. It’s too expensive, I said. I don’t find my classes useful.

Once we waded through the bullshit, we got down to business. She asked me what it was that I wanted. Not just from grad school, from life. From a life as a writer.

The idea that I might have a “life is a writer” is one that, to this day, one small reach outside of my full comprehension. My dad is a visual artist  – has never been anything but – and my mom is a nurse who, in any other life, would have chosen to be a dancer. My parents have always supported my artistic endeavors. I count this as one of my many privileges. That said, I always thought I’d do something else.

I’ll could take you through all the brilliant things my mentor said, but there’s one that stuck:

You have to show up for your writing.

Almost every time I sit down to write, there’s a part of me that’s already halfway out the door before I even get started.  Writing terrifies me. Don’t ask me why. I could give you answers, but none of them feel like truth. Not even to me. I’ve done this for years; I make excuse after excuse.

It’s easy for me to not show up for writing. Writing it’s fucking uncomfortable. Writing is where I see myself the most; when my subconscious is most visible. It’s actually terrifying – laying out all the thoughts in your head.  Telling people what goes on in your mind is a vulnerable thing to do. Claiming that your thoughts are worthy of living outside of your brain is a pretty bold move.

My mentor called bullshit because – I’m guessing- she’s been here before. She’s been to that deep dark place of self-doubt. Of the crippling fear of your ideas and imagination not being “good enough.”

The first step of writing is showing up to do it. I scribbled this down in my journal as my mentor was talking, thinking it was some riddle I’d have to solve later. After a few days of  reflecting on it, I’m like…wait a minute. This is not a fucking metaphor.  You literally have to sitcho ass down in a chair and say, “Okay brain. Let’s hear what you have to say.” It’s like a business meeting…with yourself.

Important tangent: Two years ago, I decided I was going to try to be a writer. This decision came to me after spending a weekend at the Pink Door Writers Retreat- a [now exclusively POC] poetry writing retreat for women and gender-nonconforming folx hosted by (and at the home of!) the brilliant and delightfully witchy poet-mother-goddess Rachel McKibbens.

Rachel brought 40 of us out onto the lawn and had us pair up with a partner. We were instructed to stand face-to-face, maintain eye-contact, and say the words “You are powerful, and your work is necessary” to each other.  We were instructed not to respond, to simply allow ourselves to hear the words. After a moment of silence, we all had to say it back.  “I am powerful, and my work is necessary.”

It is perhaps needless to say that this was one of the realest moments of my life. Most all of us were a weeping wreck after the workshop, partly crying tears of joy and relief and being freed from the burden of believing the opposite, party mourning for the self who had waited so long to hear this truth.

I am powerful, and my work is necessary. I’ve repeated this phrase often to myself in times of distress, by which I mean, times when I have become paralyzed by my own ego. I say ego here and mean: that voice in your head. That voice whose only language is fear. Fear of failing, fear of not having enough, being enough.

I am powerful, and my work is necessary. Just take a minute and say that shit out loud. (No for real, do it.)

I am powerful, and my work is necessary.

Okay so all of a sudden, you’re asking yourself questions, right? How am I powerful? Why? What does it mean to be powerful? My work is necessary? What is “my work?” Who needs it? Why?

It’s taken me years to clarify, but, I’ve come to discover that my work is a journey towards consciousness. This is a lifelong journey. Lifetime work. I often get caught up in what it is that I’m doing, what it is that I’m going to do. What I’m doing with my life is trying to figure out the best way to live it.

I’m one of those woowoo’s who believes we all go on forever. YOLO was my actual mantra for like, at least two whole years. I only get to occupy this body in this lifetime once. Then, I’m on to the next life, the next form.

I often forget that everything I do is a journey towards consciousness.  What I mean by that is: I’m just trying to get free and to do so publicly so that other people might see me and give themselves permission to to the same.

Part of getting free, for me, is getting past fear. Not being fearless, but being brave. It’s taken me a long time to understand what it means to be brave. I’m still figuring it out, but I’ve learned that it’s just simply doing it afraid.quote-when-i-dare-to-be-powerful-to-use-my-strength-in-the-service-of-my-vision-then-it-becomes-audre-lorde-17-89-27The biggest threat to artists is myth that our work is not necessary. (Don’t even get me started on what happens when you add in the words woman, queer, and/or POC to the mix.)

Every time I sit down to write, the entire time I’m writing, I hear a voice in my head going “Huh? This doesn’t even make sense. Where is this going? This sounds like shit.”

It’s unpleasant, to say the least. The exercise is to show up for that discomfort. 

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Being brave is all about giving yourself permission to struggle. Struggling IS the work. If not making forceful efforts to get free, then what am I doing?

~

A friend that I’ve known since high school just finished the first year of an MBA program. When talking with her about how the hell it is I plan to make money in my life, she said to me, “If you want a successful business, you have to fill a need.”

The thing about being a writer is… there’s a whole world out there that tells you that your writing isn’t necessary. That what you’re doing is extraneous. That it’s some kind of luxury.

The exercise, then, is believing that what you’re doing is powerful and necessary. I’ll wrap this up. This Ira Glass video keeps popping up on my newsfeed:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/24715531″>Ira Glass on Storytelling</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/thedak”>David Shiyang Liu</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Basically, the only way to be a writer is to write.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Here I am. Okay?  I’m trying.

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