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This Girl Is On Fire

I recently read, let’s be honest, I devoured Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” in less than a week.  I had been listening to her podcast and connecting on such a deep level with so much of what she was saying.  Jill and I seemed to talk about it constantly.  Then the book arrived (I bought the physical book, no kindle version for me this time!) and I read it as my husband and I drove from far off gig to far off gig during our busiest time of year.  I read it aloud to him for stretches, and then to myself when my voice grew tired.  I photographed pages with my phone and texted them to Jill.  “She is talking to us.” I would write and then send pages of text to my dearest friend who would reply with something like, “Well.  Fuck.” and I knew she got it.  Because all the things I’ve been struggling with when it comes to this creative life I’m supposed to be living were addressed in that book, and then I was able to lay them out in front of me and pick them apart and start to figure this out.

I haven’t been writing much for this tiny space of the web lately. Actually writing in general hasn’t been something I’ve thought about much lately. I haven’t been throwing myself into this work the way I always thought I would.  And it’s only been recently I kind of figured out why.  Despite the bravado I am so talented at, I am scared.  I am good friends with some really wonderful and talented people who are doing Big Things and saying Important Stuff and writing books and being on talk shows and a bunch of other stuff that just seems insane to me sometimes.  All the sudden, watching these people I love say the things they wanted to say and having their voices be heard made me simultaneously so proud of them and so fucking terrified of my own voice.  That critic in my head started getting louder than the words.  It’s all been said before! She’d yell at me.  There isn’t anything you can write or say that hasn’t been written or said a million times.  What’s the point? She taunted.  And suddenly the words started hanging out with me less and less.  And the people who lived in my mind starting going on to other places where they would be listened to; where the droaning of worry and regret weren’t louder than the story they were trying to tell.  And I got very, very lonely.

I wish I could say it was just a few weeks or days of self doubt and then I picked myself up and brushed myself off.  But it wasn’t.  It’s been years.  Years of doing EVERYTHING and ANYTHING other than the thing I knew I was supposed to be doing.  I let my career take over. I let my family and their needs take my time and energy.  I let it get really easy to not set aside the time I needed to write and to do the work and let things happen.  It got really easy to say I wasn’t a writer anymore.  But every time I said that, or even thought it I felt like I was betraying myself on the deepest, most cruel level I ever had.  I was telling my 12 year old self who had begged her parents for a typewriter for Christmas that they were right to not get it for her.  I was telling 15 year old me who wrote everything down and read everything she could get her hands on that those hours and days and years of work were for nothing.  I told the girl who wrote and wrote and worked and worked that she wasn’t the person she thought she was.  And I was so damn wrong.  I am ashamed at just how wrong I was.

Jill and I have always had these ideas.  The show up in the middle of the night, or while we’re driving to work or when we’re in meetings or the middle of conversations and they say “HEY! YOU SHOULD BE WORKING WITH US! WE ARE GREAT IDEAS!” Sometimes they hold on so fast and so tight we are subject to them.  This website, this is one idea that just wouldn’t let us go.  So we made it happen, just so we could maybe get some sleep at night.  We’ve had others, SO many other ideas and something would get in the way and then we wouldn’t do the thing we’d been so inspired to do and then, low and behold, just a short while later someone else would do the same thing – because that idea got tired of waiting on us and away it went to someone who would pay attention to it and make shit happen.  We would text each other, “Did you see that!?  God! We had that idea two years ago!” to which the other would respond with “Well.  Fuck.” and we knew that they got it.  The feeling that follows of watching an idea find someone else to nurture and care for it and bring it to life, really, really sucks.  I realized what the real problem was – we were selling ourselves short.  We were listening to that damn critic more than we were listening to anything else.  We had mastered the art of making excuses.  I am no longer interested in critics or excuses.  And you know what? It’s about damn time.

Jill and I have had an idea for YEARS to write together offline and see what happens. Since the early days of our friendship we have been collaborative writers.  It has been a joy to be a part of.  Some of my fondest memories from my youth involve writing with Jill. We are excellent storytellers who approach things so differently that is works in a way it just shouldn’t but totally does.  So we stopped making excuses, and we started pretending, and we started writing things down.  Then, as if from ashes, a fire rose in me (and hopefully in Jill too.)  Last night, as we drank margaritas and annihilated guacamole to celebrate the second year of Cap City Moms I told Jill about how this idea isn’t going to get away.  I am going to hold tight to it, nurture it, cultivate it as best I can.  Because it is burning a hole in me and I have never been more excited to be aflame.

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Nora
    November 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

    YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!!

  • Reply
    Nora
    November 13, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I’m been listening to this podcast, Women Wanting More, but Dr. Karen Osburn and she inspires me to do the work so I can have more happy. It is what I want for everyone. Check it out. She is a badass.https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/women-wanting-more-balance/id1032202794?mt=2

  • Reply
    Stephanie J. Jankowski
    January 12, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I’m so glad I read this when I did; I just downloaded her audio book and was hoping it’d get me through work-outs without wanting to kill myself. So far, not so much. I’ll keep going on your solid recommendation!

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