Thursday, September 28, 2017

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, September 28, 2017 5 comments
Like so many women, I've spent my life trying to be perceived a certain way. A way that earned me praise because it aligned with my parents' values: that I be thrifty and efficient and smart and competent and tidy and spiritual and nice and always on time. That I do the right things at the right phases of life. That I not be wasteful or a burden or a mess.

As I celebrate my birthday (I could now wear a jersey from a certain California football team), I can't help but reflect upon where life has taken me and my own choices in the journey. And at this phase of middle-age, I'm realizing just how much of my choices haven't been about embracing my gifts or pursuing joy, but merely avoiding censure.
Photo by Penywise at morguefile.com

Ouch.

I know I'm not alone in this. Women in our culture are held to very high standards. We're made to feel ashamed if, as Brene Brown put it, we can't "do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat." But, she notes "this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be...is a straight-jacket."

Getting out of the rut of feeling "not enough," and all the ways that feeling impedes living life fully, requires being courageously vulnerable and authentic. Shame thrives in darkness, but withers when exposed to the light and to loving acceptance instead of censure.

That work for each of us begins with being authentic to and with ourselves. The one area I've struggled most with in my writing life is being reticent to allow my inner rebel to exist. The longer I suppress her, the more she returns the favor and keeps me stuck.

My inner rebel currently has me working on a new novel in my series, but *gasp* it's out of order. It would chronologically fit between my first and second published book.

The voice of shame says, "what kind of idiot writes book two after book three? It's creative suicide. You can't do that. It's wrong. Just stop now. You're going to ruin what you've already accomplished."

And my rebel voice replies, "who says you have to write a series in order? What a dumb rule. This project is awesome, and deep, and will take you to amazing places creatively, emotionally, and spiritually."

And so the project stutters along, flowing when I let the rebel have her way, and stalling when that paralyzing fear of breaking a publishing taboo wins the day.

In 2015 I began gathering a bunch of blog posts, and writing some new material, all focused on productivity, especially on tips to leverage small pockets of time to keep in touch with writing projects when life is hectic. That book is about 85% written.

Why haven't I finished it? The voice of shame accusing me: "You writing about productivity? What a laugh. You're the most unproductive writer in the history of the world. You've only put out two novels, four years apart. Why would anyone want your tips?"

And my inner rebel counters, "Well, who wants productivity tips from some four-novels-a-year person who has no friends, no hobbies, no side hussle, and neglects her family? That's not where much of anyone really lives. But there most certainly are people who want to know how you squeeze a little creative joy into an already full life."

See, when I let my inner rebel talk, she's actually pretty awesome. She isn't interested in life's shoulds but rather coulds: "This idea could be a little scary and weird and possibly not pan out, but it could lead somewhere cool. Let's explore!"

What risks does your inner rebel goad you toward? 

5 comments:

  1. I agree with your inner rebel! Writing about productivity in the midst of real life is important. It's good to know that real writers exist, not just super-fast writers. Real writers with real lives deserve the cape of super-hero, too. :) However, I know how that voice sounds - the belittling one. I realized this year that the last four years I've been benefiting from a decade of rough drafts ... and now I'm back to rough drafting projects, all out of order and not even related to each other. It may take me another year or two or more. Then, I might be able to release of flood of material again. I'm a drought and flood writer, or a draft-for-years and then release-a-lot writer. :)
    I also think you can release books out of order. Orson Scott Card has released books every which way in his Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow series - both very successful series based on a short story/novelette he wrote many years ago. There's even a prequel series and novellas he wrote that fit within one of the novels, as bonus material. You are just making your readers happy - never mind that it's out of order.

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    1. Thanks, Tyrean, for the encouragement. I think much of Brene Brown's insights into expectations and shame have made me realized how much I've let that belittling voice hold sway. And the Ender series is a great example. Thank you! He sure did release those books in an odd order, but that didn't lessen their popularity one bit.

      I'd initially begun my current fiction project as a bonus feature novella, but the ideas kept expanding. If I have to renumber the books later, so be it. I think my inner rebel is on the money about this one.

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  2. This is a really good post. So true in so many ways. But yay for your inner rebel! There's probably nothing worse for writing than doing what you "should" do -- all the best books seem to have been written because the authors were writing for themselves and not for any perceived reader or market.

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    1. Indeed, creativity asks us to bring our authentic self to the desk, not the perfectionist naysayer. I jokingly call her my "inner rebel" because she's not that interested in rules, but in being real.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I have so many stories I want to tell but I have allowed myself to lose my joy in the process because of all of the ifs. "Who will want to read a story about an unsuspecting snarky princess pulled into another dimension to save the world?" Etc, etc, etc. I am the queen of second guessing myself. My inner rebel has gone quiet. I need to fire up the theme music from Rocky and get her back into fighting shape!

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