I didn’t start writing to become a better person. Back then, I thought I was perfectly fine as I was, thanks very much. I started writing because I needed to understand my life. As a child, I had no-one to talk to, so I spoke into the quiet I found on the page.
I got lucky. I became a published author, ten times over. On the path, I’ve done book signings, received fanmail and royalties, been flown here and there to talk about my books which have all been fabulous in the way that a new cocktail dress and stilettos are fabulous. But they’ve not been the lasting or true gifts my writing has given me. As I’ve stayed with writing, through sunny and shadowy times, we’ve grown together like partners in any relationship of intimacy.
Not only has writing given my life meaning and tracked my journey, but it’s bestowed these unexpected gifts along the way:
1. Embodiment: people imagine writing is an idea that begins in our heads, but it doesn’t. It starts in our bodies. I learned this early from Tom Robbins, who suggested writers need to do half an hour of exercise and then get sexually aroused before a day of writing (I’ve not quite managed this). It’s about sweat. Senses. Blood. Guts. For a heady gal, this commitment to bone and muscle has helped me to really see, hear, feel, smell, taste and touch the world. It’s made me a better mother, lover, friend and all-round human.
2. Depth and Intensity of Emotion: it’s impossible to escape the truth of how we feel when we write. Writing has helped me to express, instead of suppress my deepest feelings. I don’t have to worry about being ‘too intense.’ The page doesn’t judge or flinch. It just receives whatever you’re bringing – passion, grief, anger. This has given me permission to feel everything I feel, fully and without censorship. I’m not scared of my own feelings or others.
3. Lightness through Forgiveness: in writing, I’ve made making meaning of my experiences including some really dark and ugly stuff – and in doing that, I’ve been able to let go of pain and trauma. Writing has helped me to offload old wounds and move on in my life. I’ve forgiven myself and others for mistakes and hurts inflicted.
4. Self-Compassion and Acceptance: words have helped me understand who I am – all of me, not just the loveable parts I present to the world in a curated Facebook profile. I’m able to be a full person, imperfect, flawed, vulnerable, rude, impatient, selfish as well as successful, smart, generous and whatever else I want others to think of me. When we can meet ourselves with self-compassion (and a sense of humour), we grow in empathy towards others.
5. Unshakeable Self-Worth: to write, we must believe we have something worth saying. Even though we may battle the incessant question, ‘who’m I to write?’ we soon develop a curiosity about ourselves, and this question shifts into ‘Who am I?’ which is one of the power questions each soul must answer. Honestly, I always hope people will find value in what I write. But if they don’t, at least I have.
6. The Compass of Intuition: writing has shown me how to trust myself and to stop second-guessing my gut. Over the years my intuition has become my compass. Our intuition is our inner guidance we often ignore, which reignites when we listen to the silence within our hearts. I once made my husband get off a plane before take-off because ‘it didn’t feel right.’ He wasn’t happy with me. I think he thought I was losing it, and for a moment, I thought maybe I was – I mean who gets off a plane before takeoff when the doors are already closed? But after we’d disembarked and the captain ordered all the other passengers off soon after, he gulped and apologized. (I’ve got to say, it was a relief to me too…)
Writing has helped me stay sane. It’s expanded my sense of what’s possible to know, feel and discover.
I have just one regret.
I’m sorry about the trees, I truly am.