Creative Writing: Finally!
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back
to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
I guess it was inevitable that my first attempt at fiction would be based in reality. My dad was a newspaper reporter and editor. What is more surprising is that I’m writing at all. After all, I spent 30 years writing to advance my career in academia. I wrote a doctoral dissertation, a piece of work that initially excited me but which quickly became drudgery in the rule-bound atmosphere of university standards. I wrote two academic books, several articles for academic journals and data reports for employers and clients. When I retired, I breathed a big sigh of relief that I would never again have to figure out what it takes to be acceptable to professors, committees, and publishers.
So, after several years of mindful self-exploration, including meditation, journaling, and art classes, I have begun to get a glimpse of the creative spark buried under years of criticism, and fear of rejection. I have finished the first three chapters of my new book, tentatively titled, We Can’t Go Back! It is the story of a young migrant family from Honduras; a husband, his pregnant wife and their five-year old daughter, that is making the trek north across Mexico. They hope to cross the border into the United States and create a better life. My hope is that this story will put a human face on the news media stories that are highly politicized in this country – and elsewhere around the world.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that I would write fiction. Not that writing academic articles or books was ever easy for me either. I have memories of going into therapy when I faced writer’s block on my dissertation. My therapist didn’t want to talk about my research; she wanted to talk about my childhood. Not a bad idea, as it turned out. Like many children, I grew up thinking that creativity and art were the same thing. And I quickly learned to believe that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. I remember a lot of coloring books in which I was advised to “color within the lines” or that “our faces aren’t that color.” I now know I’m not alone in having these self-limiting beliefs drilled into me.
My father, who taught journalism as well as edited newspaper articles, was all about the facts. Who, what, when, where, and why. Good writers were not supposed to interject their subjective opinions. By the way, I know he’s rolling over in his grave at what the so-called news media is doing today. Anyway, I digress. I would leave my high school English papers on the kitchen table for him to edit. He worked at a morning newspaper so he would review my homework when he got home at 1:00 am. As I walked into the kitchen the next morning before school, I dreaded seeing my papers. The RED pen markings were visible three feet away!
My English professors in college were even tougher than my dad was. Somehow, I managed to graduate with a degree in English and went on to graduate school. But I never had much confidence in my writing – I much preferred speaking to writing. It never got easier.
Things are different now. As I said, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection. Much of my new confidence in writing comes from two wonderful writers: Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love. Interestingly, Gilbert was a student of The Artist’s Way and it shows in her more recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In the latter book, Gilbert challenged me with the following tips to unblock creativity:
We don’t have to be fearless. We just need to be courageous. Decades of fear of rejection probably won’t disappear immediately. But courage? I have the courage to deal with rejection and criticism.
Ideas are magic, even spiritual. When the idea for my book “whooshed” by me, I grabbed it before it latched onto someone else.
Permission. I believe I am entitled to have a voice and a vision. I am allowed to take risks and even to fail.
Persistence. I can be creative at any age, even at age 65! I only need internal validation, not external validation.
Trust: I can choose a playful and curious approach to creativity, rather than becoming a martyr. It can be fun!
So, as the old Carpenters’ song goes, “We’ve only just begun.” My book is so much fun to write – I get to combine research, which I’ve got a lot of experience doing, with creativity, which I’ve only recently discovered. I’ll let you know how it goes!
by Mike Groves, August, 2018
In order to expose my heart and truly write,
I must release my status or my pride,
this is not about me,
it was never meant to be a way to gain recognition,
another way for me to perform on a stage, some sort of exhibition.
Yet I find myself hesitating to write my thoughts,
trying to impress people I don’t even know,
It was only meant to be an outlet a therapy for me, never some sort of show,
but like everything I have ever done somehow I’d rather waste my time trying to impress. My guilty conscience driving me to be truly under duress. Forced to hold back the leanings of my heart I merely release a fluffy worthless shallow piece. I will not be stifled, held down by my need to please, my ribs will not rupture under this pressure as I try to breathe. I must write with heart and soul or not at all.
So this is my open message to you pride, no matter how many times I fool myself into putting on your mask, I promise, your control over me will not last.
I will take you off just as quickly as I put you on because I want someone who reads these to truly see me. To see me with all of my scars misfortunes and faith, I will put my heart out, I will never aspire to be fake.