Shawna Atteberry

Baker, Writer, Teacher

You Gotta Love Serendipity

I just read something I really, really needed from Havi Brooks’ awesome site The Fluent Self (If you don’t read her, go subscribe. Now.) Her latest post is “Avoidance! Oh, and getting out of it”:

You’re avoiding the thing that’s holding all your dreams? Good grief! Of course you are! That symbolic weight? It’s that much potential for hurt and disappointment.

If you weren’t avoiding it on some level, I’d be worried about you. If you could do the thing easily and painlessly, without having to spend years and years working on your stuff to get there… I’d probably assume that it didn’t mean everything to you.

It’s not this: “Even though I thought this meant everything to me, I’m still avoiding it so clearly I don’t really care about it.”

It’s this: “Wow, this means everything to me… so of course I’m avoiding it.”

This is where I’ve been with my writing. It is my dream to write. My whole world is wrapped up in that. But lately I have been wondering at my own avoidance. Does it mean this is what I should be doing? Is this really not what I want to be doing? May be I should just be satisfied with writing as a hobby and get a “real job.”

Then I read this post. And Havi is absolutely right. The reason I am avoiding this is because it really is my heart’s dream. It’s huge. It’s monumental. Of course I’m scared to death. Of course I’m avoiding it. Because there is so “much potential for hurt and disappointment.” Of course there is reisitance and fear: this dream is everything to me.

Instead of beating myself up and berating myself, I need to continue to take Havi’s advice:

To say to yourself:

“Of course I’m afraid. It makes sense that I’m afraid. This fear is a temporary part of where I’m at right now. And even though I’d really like to not need to have it around anymore, this is where I am right now.

I am allowed to have this fear.

This is me noticing how much space my fear takes up. This is me reminding myself that my fear is only one part of who I am. It is not all of me. It is of me, but it is not me.”

Because so much space opens up right after you’ve softened the resistance and the fighting with yourself.

Every time I interrogate myself (”Why am I so tired? Why can’t I write this blog post? How come I don’t feel like doing yoga?”), my reaction is resistance.

Every time I notice what I’m feeling and give myself permission to feel it (”Wow, I guess I need some rest. I’m allowed not to always be in the zone”), I feel safe. Safe and comforted.

Invariably, I remember what it’s like to not be fighting with myself.

Instead of fight myself, I need create a safe space within myself for this fear. And in this space I will feel safe enough to create. I feel a lot better knowing what this fear and avoidance are about. It’s about this being my dream, and not that I’m wrong about what I should be doing. My “real job” is writing. It is exactly what I should be doing.

Politely dismiss fear and have tea with your character

There are things I need to do. I know I need to do them. And there they are waiting for me: Career Women, essays, poems, stories, and a novel. They are all waiting for me. Waiting for me to sit down and to start writing. They whisp and whirl around my head waiting for me to give them substance. They lean in close and whisper in my ear, telling me who the are. Telling me their stories. And I want to write these stories, their stories. I really do.

Then the Wall comes. The Wall in my head. A block, writer’s block, whatever you want to call it. It’s there, and the Wall has brought friends. Every Inner Critic that has ever stuffed itself into my head is there. Those fiends. “You’re never going to finish.” “You don’t have the focus and the stamina.” “You’re not smart enough.” “Everyone else has docorates; you think you can stand with them?” “You’re just going to procrastinate, find other things to do.” “You’ll never make this work.” “You’ll never finish this.” “Why are you  doing this to yourself?” The infernal, internal Critics. Without fail, day, night, or in the wee hours of the morning, there they are. There’s no hiding from them. They are always there. But there is something else too. These were there before the wall and the bullies showed up.

My creations. The characters I live with; I bring to life. They are still there, waiting for me. Waiting for me to give them substance, to breathe life and form into them. They twist and turn through the wall and around the barriers, calling me. Asking me to write them. They want to tell me who they are, what they do, and the weird things that keep popping up into their lives. They want me to stop paying so much attention to the distractions, the Walls, to Critics, to all the other things I should be doing. They want me to sit down and tell their stories while they swhirl around the room, whispering words in my ears. They want me to tell their stories.

So much of the time I don’t. The Wall, the Excuses, and the Critics get in the way. All I see is them. I lose sight my own creations, my muse, my word. I have to make my way back. Back through the Excuses, back through the Critic’s lies, back to my Fears. I look at my Fear, knowing it’s not going anywhere, and make a decision. I look at Fear, and I make that decision. Right behind Fear and little to the left a character flits around the corners of my vision and visits my dreams: Morrighan. I don’t know who she is yet, but I will find out. I look Fear in the eye, and say, “Come back later.” I introduced myself to Morrighan. “Let’s chat,” I say. She smiles as we walk toward the table with the journal and the tea. She has been waiting a long time for this.

I got the idea to talk about my blocks and fears from Havi Brooks. She recently published posts that have made me start to see my own blocks and fears in a slightly different way. Here are the conversations Havi has had with her blocks: Conversations with Blocks, Part 1 and Conversations with Blocks, Part 2.