It is true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards.
But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived — forwards.
A soft scratching hums through the air as my pencil glides across the page. Not drawing words; bringing ideas into being so that they can survive beyond my fluttered thoughts.
Putting our thoughts to paper is frightening.
Because while they remain within the protective confines of our imagination, they’re sheltered. Safe from the slings and arrows and edicts of “good” writing versus “bad” writing.
By making them real, we make them vulnerable.
As writers, we want to protect our ideas by not opening them up to criticism.
But that’s not safety; that’s imprisonment.
Only by giving them shape can they take form. Only by exposing them to the elements and letting them weather the storm of outside opinion can we let them strengthen.
In keeping them to ourselves, we leave our ideas to die.
I recently cleaned out the folders on my computer and went through some of my old notebook journals. Within those files and pages I found abandoned story after abandoned story.
Two decades’ worth.
And now, after languishing for so long, those ideas no longer want to talk to me.
Yes, I could make excuses. I could say that life got in the way. That I never had time.
But the truth is that I never made the time. Because what if I finished? Then I’d be out of excuses to keep them sheltered, away from the prying eyes of the public.
As a professional copywriter, I put my work up for criticism every day. Without a qualm. My professional hide is as hard as iron rhino statue.
But these pages, these stories — they were personal. Full of more honesty and creativity than any professional presentation I’ll ever make.
So what now?
I do what I should have been doing all this time. Now, I draw my pencil across the page. I let the whisper of graphite on paper lull me into revealing my writer’s daydreams.
But this time, I make a commitment to finish. To follow the story as it leads me. For as long as it leads me.
And to trust that these ideas and my sense of self-worth as a writer will withstand the coming storm.
Are you willing to do the same? Let me know in the comments.