Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Right to Write

Writing is a powerful thing. To me there is nothing more satisfying than organising words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and, in doing so, composing a piece that will hopefully touch or entertain its reader. In short: expressing what I want to say, and doing so as thoughtfully and eloquently as possible.

Writing has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I wrote short stories at school, enjoyed essay writing at university as well as journaling and writing poems privately.  I even hope to finish a novel I'm working on within the next year or so, carving out time especially to work on it now that daughter N is starting school after the summer. No one save a couple of close friends know about this novel writing activity - or even about this blog in fact! - as I have kept my lips firmly sealed. Why? For fear of being criticised, fear of putting myself out there, but also for fear of being a disappointment (shudder).

Baring your soul - for that is what writing is - is a tricky business. What if people don't like what you do? (Help!) What if people do like what you do? (Help!). In the first case you risk feelings of shame and devastation; in the second the pressure to perform and continue pleasing. It is a catch-22 situation and both do the writer - and the writing - a great disservice.

Some excellent posts have been appearing lately on various blogs concerning creativity and the act of writing**. A lot of writers express a fear of judgement and some have been put off in the past by  the judgements of others - even teachers at school. Others fear that they have nothing really important to say. The good news, I am discovering, is that the extent to which we allow ourselves to be influenced by any of these self-limiting fears is entirely up to us.

I am discovering that first and foremost, it is important that I love my own work; I do not need the approval of others to do what I do. This is a difficult habit of thought to change, as a great part of my life has been lived dependent on the approval of others. But with a bit of practice, I'm getting there. (To be clear: encouraging, constructive comments are wonderful and should be offered generously and welcomed warmly!) Secondly, there will always be those who like and  those who don't like what I do. And that's just fine. No need to try and please anyone, let alone everyone (tough habit to let go of for a people-pleaser like myself).

I am changing my limiting thinking habits with the help of a wonderful book called The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, and would like to recommend it to all those writers out there who at times fail to believe in themselves and/or their talents and passions. Cameron has some wise words to say about the way we greatly limit ourselves and our creative abilities.

     "We do not see our size. We do not view ourselves with accuracy. We are far larger, far more marvelous, far more deeply and consistently creative than we recognize and know.
     We do not credit ourselves with what it is we can - and often do - accomplish. We are blind to our gifts; we are deaf to our voice. We do not see or hear our magnitude. Why is this?"(p.48)

Have you ever allowed others to curb your creativity (whether that be writing, painting, baking or some other creative activity) with their comments or criticism ? What has been your reaction - have you gone on, or given up? I would love to know.

**A few posts on this topic, in random order. If you have a post on this topic and would like it to be added to the list, please let me know.

Flood-Proof Mum
Today's Stuff
Above the River
The Quince Tree (on the joy of blogging and the realisation of not being a freak after all)
Circle of Pine Trees (inspiring post on, amongst other things, the link between creativity and motherhood)



  1. Wat je schrijft is zonder meer de nagel op de kop...
    Ik denk dat velen onder ons (ik toch in elk geval) dikwijls "remmingen" hebben om te schrijven wat we zouden willen, gewoon uit schrik voor "de algemene opinie", of uit schrik om kritiek te krijgen.
    En eigenlijk is dat verkeerd... Zoals je zegt, een mens zal nooit iedereen kunnen tevreden stellen. Bovendien is kritiek niet per definitie slecht, uit gegronde kritiek kan men veel leren...
    Maar dit beseffen is één zaak, het toepassen vind ik al heel wat moeilijker ;-)

  2. Beautifully put, it is indeed important to love your own work. It's funny, but none of my friends know I have a blog either, except one or two. And no-one has read it. The book you recommend sounds excellent, and the quote is inspirational. Many thanks for the link Isabelle, and I've really enjoyed reading your post. CJ xx

  3. my blog is where I write and I am fiercely protective of it, hardly any of my friends know about it, and none of my family. It has been that way for so long I could hardly "out" it now. so I write happily and privately.

  4. Hello, I am new to your blog. This is a very interesting post, and I totally agree with what you have said here. I haven't told any of my family or many of my friends about my blog, and then pretty much only those that I am pretty certain will never read it. This is for all of the reasons that you described. I really enjoyed how you wrote here, and look forward to reading more in the future. I wish you all the best with that novel! xx

  5. This was a very refreshing and insightful post.

  6. *very*, *very*, *very* recognisable. Am always held back, and write sporadically even though everyone who ever read a short blog from my hand has always asked me for more... But then, the pressure is on.

    Must really meet up, me thinks we have to much in common. ;)


  7. Thank you for the mention. I agree with what you say about baring your soul. It takes a good deal of courage to write, or at least to write from the heart. x

  8. This is a lovely post, your thoughts on writing resonate with me. I wouldn't call myself a writer but I do enjoy the process of creating a story, or an account of our daily life. I feel good after noting down my thoughts. My biggest limitation is my language skills, which are still developing. English is my second language and I prefer writing in this acquired tongue because I feel inhibited in my first mother tongue as a result of an overly critical teacher at school.

    I am a new reader and enjoy my visit here today. I'll be back for more later. Cx

  9. Thank you for visiting my blog. Writing is as much a part of my life as reading, and always has been. Like you, I made up stories as a child, I entered national school essay competitions when I was 10-14 and came first one year, second the next. I have always had penfriends, and for a long time have written every day in a journal. I am a published writer of social and local history, and have just finished my first novel and now looking at my next step with it. And to answer your last question, no. I accept constructive criticism, but am lucky in that nobody has ever denigrated what I do, be it my writing or craft work.

  10. Well, my comment seems to have got lost after I hit the 'publish' button! I cannot remember what I said word for word, but just to say thank you for the book recommendation. In the last couple of years I have gained in confidence in writing from the heart without thinking what will please or what won't. I feel that if I am myself I can only show sincerity and anyone who reads my words will let me know if I am connecting with them or not!
    I have connected to the way you write! Greetings, Sandra

  11. Like you I have always expressed myself through writing - be it writing my blog which I enjoy immensely or trying to write a novel - I have a drawer full of drafts but never seem to get round to editing them and seeing them through. But I will certainly be getting a copy of this book to spur me on. One book I have read on the subject of writing is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - truly inspirational.


Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. I love reading your comments so please feel free to leave one (or more, if the mood so takes you) in English and/or in Dutch.