Not long after my last post on October 1st, someone I’ve known a long time told me that my words make him uncomfortable. The polite communication implied please stop. This is someone I care for and respect, so I did not dismiss what was said. I got quiet & thoughtful. I stopped blogging. I got careful.
The danger of being careful?
Careful does not cultivate creativity and connection.
It took a book for me to realize that careful had shut down my writing.
The book? Scary Close by Don Miller. We’ve never met, but Don is a familiar writing voice to me; I’ve read his titles Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in A Thousand Years. It was good to hear his voice again in his latest personal-story-as-universal-experience offering.
Don examines emotional health as he’s come to experience it through friendships, a therapy-for-adults kind of camp experience, and courting his wife (in his early 40’s). The chapter that pulled me up short in my weeks-long writing hiatus is entitled The Risk of Being Careful.
Being agreeable and being understood made me careful for years. I wanted people from strangers to family to get what I meant and preferably like it. This careful (impossible) desire consumed heaps of my emotional energy. Like Don Miller I’ve come to realize that I’m responsible for is my own emotional well-being. I look after my own thoughts, my own feelings. That’s all. Readers, listeners, whoever stumbles into the audience will think or feel whatever they wish about my work, my words.
On wobbly days it is tough for me to remember that other people’s thoughts & feelings are their own business. It is so nice to be understood, to gain approval, to be liked.
On less wobbly days I remember what all meaningful, original expression — also known as art — is meant to do.
Here are Don Miller’s words from Scary Close that stopped me in my careful tracks.
Being afraid to love and being paralyzed at the keyboard both involve a fear of being know, a fear of making mistakes, a fear of being found out.”
…the fear of letting people down is one of the primary reasons people procrastinate.”
Is there anything more toxic than the fear of being judged? Judgment shuts us down and makes us hide. It keeps us from being ourselves, which keeps us from connecting with people.”
I couldn’t afford to be afraid to write and my soul needed to be known and it couldn’t be known in hiding.
So I wrote. I wrote as though God thought my voice mattered. I wrote because I believed a human story was beautiful, no matter how small the human was. I wrote because I didn’t make myself, God did. And I wrote like [God] invited me to share my true “self” with the world.”
Don’s words shook with such truth that I wept. Whether it comforts or it disturbs I share my story in hopes that you and I will connect. If we don’t connect, I encourage you to find writers who do speak to you in meaningful ways. They are out there.
My true “self” and my story include growing up in my family and my take on experiences in that family. My story includes managing health adventures with art — photos with lots of skin and writing about them. My story includes reflection and glimpses of redemption as I experience levels of recovery in different aspects of life. This is not always neat or sweet. And it is always risky.
The risk of being known is also the decision to be criticized by some.” ~ Donald Miller
As a writer I realize there are risks. My writing isn’t for everyone and I will be misunderstood and criticized. I get that. It is what it is.