Some major changes in my life over the past two and a half years (a car accident, chronic Lyme diagnosis, going into and then out of a partnership in my business) knocked me off my trajectory, my yellow brick road.
At the end of 2014 I knew I was ready to get back to the work I love, and opened my arms to the new year and all the possibility and opportunity 2015 held for me. Yet, when I thought about getting back on track—submitting my writing again, leading creative writing workshops, coaching and mentoring writers—something didn’t feel quite right. Something had shifted for me, and I hadn’t a clue what it was.
Perplexed and vexed – that was me. You see, I can’t imagine my life without writing. I’ve always written. Even after my car accident, when I was following the doctor’s strict orders for ‘brain rest’ (no writing, reading, listening to music, watching TV or doing my beloved crossword puzzles), I would dictate into my phone the lines and images that continued to flow so I could write them later.
When I was a practicing psychotherapist I encouraged my clients to use writing to explore their thoughts and feelings, to use the pen as a means to access and support their insights. When I led women’s spiritual and personal self-development retreats, writing was always an integral part of the weekend. With space and time to themselves, through prompts and mindfully-chosen journal questions, women could give voice to their thoughts, tell their stories, ask questions of their lives, and honor their creativity. Writing in groups gives people an opportunity to tell their own stories and have those stories be heard in a safe, nonjudgmental environment—a very empowering experience.
Writing allows me to put words to feelings; to tell stories, through prose or poetry, that I didn’t know were there; to express what I cannot speak—in my own unique way. Facilitating this process for others is deeply gratifying and meaningful life’s work for me.
So, if I knew what I wanted to do, and I was ready to do it, what was the problem?
After rich conversations with close friends, and some supportive work with a coach, I was able to put my finger on it.
Have you noticed how writing – creative or otherwise – has become a very commercial enterprise? If you have any doubt, just google creative writing books, coaches, workshops, courses or instructors.
Writing has also become a very tech-savvy business. Social media is now the medium of choice for marketing. But, for this writer, this workshop leader, coach and mentor, writing and facilitating the writing of others, is not a commercial venture. And, FYI, technology and its rapidly changing nature scares me.
So, while I wanted to once again lead creative writing workshops and to sit in circle with other writers, the work it was going to take to advertise what I offer seemed overwhelming, and the ‘big business’ mentality of market competition was not an intention I wanted to work from.
All the work I do has one intention at its heart: to help an individual find his or her own voice and know how very much that voice matters to the world, how necessary it is to the human conversation.
I do not want to be competitive in the creative world I love. I don’t want to jump into that fray. Yes, it’s how I make my living, but it is oh, so much more than an income to me.
I do not want what I do as a profession and a vocation to be reduced to the ‘right’ words (some irony here) for search engines, always looking for how I can offer something different, how I can stand out from the pack and be noticed in cyber world. I don’t want to package and advertise myself and what I do as a commercial product. To me, leading workshops is profound and often sacred work.
So, was I to do? The question nagged at me. It roared at me.
The upside of this Mighty Winter we’re experiencing here in the Northeast is that it has created the perfect cocoon for me to be doing my own ‘winter work’ – the deep listening to my own voice trying to answer the questions, How do I want to ‘be’ in this world? How do I want to show up personally and professionally?
When the answer came it was so simple, so unadorned, so clear: I want to show up as Myself. That eliminates any question of competition. It takes me off the hook for being anything or anybody other than Maggie Butler.
In the context of how I want to show up as myself professionally, it means writing this blog post, sending out this newsletter after a long hiatus, and scheduling workshops again.
I’m also declaring an early Spring. This lion of a winter has sent me inside, feeling a bit claustrophobic and yearning to be outside in much warmer air, on long-striding walks with my little notebook and pen in my pocket.
So, here’s a prompt for all of us:
Imagine you or your character are outside on an early Spring day after a fierce winter. Using your senses, describe your surroundings, then, writing in the present tense, describe what happens…