Many of us learn to hold a crayon as early as someone thinks to put one in our hands. We're encouraged to spell and practice our name long before any formal education. And once we hit school? We write. For years.
There was a time in my life when writing caused me physical and emotional pain. Close friends know this about me already, but I find I am inspired and motivated further every time I share about this terror. I'm talking body-numbing, brain-paralyzing, tear-inducing side effects. The very act of writing this blog post was once-upon-a-time impossible seeming.
I didn't always experience this writing anxiety. As a kid, I wrote Mother's Day poems worthy of being saved more than 25 years later. I entered essay contests, and wrote a book report on a book I never read only to find out it was my 9th grade teacher's all time favourite. I got 100% on that book report by the way. I was comfortable and confident and could string a tale on paper. I wasn't a very good journal keeper, yet I often wrote about my thoughts and feelings in other ways.
And then it happened. Grade 10. Creative writing class.
Miss Culberson may never know she negatively affected me in the way that she did.There was rarely ever anything wrong with the structure of my stories, only critique that I could do 'better'. Eventually, I gave up trying and didn't bother to write, failing the class. Something that I felt good at as a kid, suddenly felt impossible. It became so much more than just a belief that I was a bad writer. Eventually, it hurt me to try. I was so convinced Miss C was right about me, that I believed her grade of my work to be accurate.
Interesting to look back on how much easier it is as a kid - previous to the high expectations that seemingly appear out of nowhere at one of life's crossroads. We colour outside of the lines, until someone dares tell us that's not ok, and we spell things wrong and make a grammatical mess of the pages of our journals until we feel oppressed by folks with more literacy privilege who find ways to tell us that we're not actually a real writer.
A lot happened for me since that awful high school experience. I met several people who saw me differently. One person especially, Kim, witnessed my anxiety and then walked though it with me. Rediscovering the magical power of words - MY words - led to all kinds of neat experiences! From accidentally landing a job that required I write, to being published. From going to college and nailing it ... to writing this blog. I write.
It's still a struggle. I'm very aware that I structure sentences informally, and am heavy on making up my own words with excessive hyphenation. I over use the ellipsis because I love the way little dot-dot-dots look on a page. I write like I speak and think. I am learning that that is enough. This is me. I am a writer. What I write, how often I write, and what I write about is exactly enough to earn me that title.
What about you? Who are you? What are you? Who was your Miss Culberson and who was your support to overcome? Where was your crossing over point from enjoying an activity to being stressed by it? I would love to hear your stories :) Feel free to leave a comment below, or click the Contact Us link to send me a note. Whatever you do today, know that you are enough.
** note ** I sat on this post for four days before actually feeling I could share it. I stopped worrying about it being perfect. It's just the raw me.