By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor
I have been a contributor for I AM THAT Girl since April and, like many of my fellow contributors, I am so proud to be part of an amazing and supportive community. It has also allowed me to step into the shoes of a writer.
Over the months I have watched my writing grow, change shape, and I am beginning to feel like I have found my real voice. I look back at my earlier posts, and though I am really proud that they exist, I can see how much I didn’t know about the process or about myself as a writer.
Most of the time I feel pretty good that I can put my ideas into words. Sometimes ideas just come to me, or I see something in the news that I have this urge to write about. Other times something bad has happened and it ends up that I have to get it out there for fear of it suffocating me. I have found that those posts are my favourites and the ones that seem to get the best responses. I also think it’s pretty awesome that people can enjoy or even take solace in my writing when they’re having a rough day or just need a moment to unwind.
Despite all of this, I can still find myself sitting with my notebook having absolutely nothing to say. Or rather, I have lots to say but am no sure how to articulate myself and make my ideas make sense. I usually end up being too scared/ embarrassed/ (insert your preferred adjective here) to commit to a particular idea. This invariably ends with a blank sheet of paper and me feeling like a massive failure and fraud.
According to famous dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, this is what is known as “The Blessed Unrest:”
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
In other words, as a writer it does not matter what you think of your own work or how it compares to others, only that it exists in this world at all. Our job is to keep on writing and to come to terms with the fact that we may never be satisfied with our own work, but rather it is this dissatisfaction that keeps us striving to better ourselves.
In light of this Blessed Unrest, I have decided to make a real effort in overcoming my fears and actually trust myself with what I want to write about.
As someone who frequently doubts herself, I have found the following things are of a massive comfort when I’m feeling like a rabbit in the headlights.
1) Don’t actively look for something to write about, or in other words, don’t force the words. I tried to do this last weekend and ended up with a horrendous review/critique of Mansfield Park.
2) Write anything and everything down, or what is called ‘free writing.’ This is not the same as the above, as you’re not actively searching for a subject matter but rather it is more of getting into a passive state. It’s a bit like a “live stream” of what is in your head at that very moment. No filtering, just raw thoughts on paper.
3) Do something prior to, or during your “free writing” session that naturally gets you inspired. I know that sitting on my bed listening to music always puts me in touch with my emotions and inspires me. It’s a bit like “free writing” in that it opens up a channel inside you and lets it all fall out. For me, a song can bring up a memory or get me thinking about an abstract idea.
4) When ideas do come up don’t dismiss them as being pathetic/ stupid/ (again, insert preferred adjective). Beating yourself up will get you nowhere! This is my default setting and usually happens when I either do #1, or don’t do #3. Yes, you might be right and your initial idea might suck but it may lead you into something amazing, which wouldn’t have happened if you had dismissed or ignored the initial idea. Or it might just to be awesome!
5) If you don’t manage to write anything today, this week, or this month, it does not mean you’re a failure. Maybe you’re subconscious is just busy working through some stuff, or maybe something big is gathering momentum.
Of course, failing all else, you could also just write about not being able to write.
Emily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music, and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.
Featured image via sophiaplayle.com