Getting Out of Your Own Way
Here it is nearly the end of January, well into a new year and here I finally am, sitting at my kitchen table, squinting at this screen, trying to muster up the courage, the energy to write this.
It’s not that I’m not excited - I am! It’s just that when I sit down to write, the fear sinks in and I slink away, putting the idea on the back burner, waiting for the right time to come back to it. Which, to be honest, I know the right time doesn’t exist, but sometimes I delude myself into believing it does and that it will most definitely present itself if I watch diligently enough for it.
So, I sit here and I sit with a bit of fear, but that’s a thing I’m learning to do. Not necessarily to turn away from fear completely, but to pause and observe. To step back from it if only to get a better look at it. What’s this fear trying to tell me? What can I learn from it? How can I use it?
I want to tell you something beautiful about what to expect from this project. I want to define it immediately and perfectly somehow. But the truth is, like with most stuff in life, it’s just an experiment. An experiment in confronting fears, writing more, and dabbling in a new format. I really appreciate you reading and embarking on this lil’ experiment with me. Let’s see how it unfolds, shall we?
I was gifted a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry for Christmas this year. It was a book I previously owned, but handed off or traded in at some point, and I was delighted to have it in my hands once again. I’ve spent almost every night of this year in bed with her words. Some nights I devoured whole chapters, other nights I read two or three poems potent enough to feed me what I needed. I felt exceptionally close to her and her words the last few weeks and so the news of her death on Thursday rattled me in a way that I hadn’t expected. I feel so deeply saddened and yet full of gratitude and I imagine a lot of you do too.
I don’t remember the first book of hers I read or when I found her work, but once I found her, she always stood out magnificently to me. Her words are simple, but incredibly powerful. Her writing showed us the world through her eyes and I could never thank her enough for that. Her point of view is always that of wonder, appreciation, and gratitude - something I often lose sight of and one of the reasons I love her work so much. She brings me back to that place of being in total awe of this world, this life. Her words shine such radiant light.
Her words are part of the reason I am writing to you tonight. I came across this quote of hers the other day and it really stuck with me:
That quote embodies so much of how I’ve operated most of my life. In my younger years I didn’t have the self-knowledge to fully recognize some of my innate creativity, but I don’t have that excuse these days. At this point in my life I’m fully aware of when I’m not fulfilling my creative urges or intentionally cutting myself off from them. Often times I don’t have the discipline to capture my creativity. Even worse are the times when I don’t allow myself to be bothered. The times when I don’t want to stop cooking dinner to jot down a sentence or two. Or when I know I want to be writing, but I decide to watch TV instead.
I think so much of this avoidance, when it’s boiled down, comes back around to fear. My fear of writing something bad or making something ugly or simply, fear of the unknown. The not-knowing freaks me out. I think it freaks a lot of people out.
All that is to say, Mary Oliver’s words finding their way back to me this year has felt like a beautiful sign to start writing and creating more, a gentle nudge to get to work.
On top of all that, her death serves as a powerful reminder that time does eventually run out, so make it count. And I don’t look at the phrase “make it count” to mean doing the most, but moreso doing what you feel compelled to do and not stifling yourself or distracting yourself or getting in your own way. It also means looking fear in the face and doing what you set out to do anyways.
So, that’s my plan. At least for now.
Vanessa Wardy is the social media queen at Big Cartel. Outside of work, you can find her writing and exploring. A version of this piece was originally published as part of her personal newsletter, which you can read or subscribe to here.