It turns out writing to a schedule and deadline is still super hard, who knew! I’ve been working over the last few months on a contribution to an anthology, themed around various mental health issues, put together by the wonderful Maria Alfieri. It’s called ‘The Silent Scream’. If you’re interested in finding out more on the project, Maria has recently had a beautiful article published on the project at the counsellors cafe page
It took me an absolute age to commit to contributing, and to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, to be more precise) At first I was going to submit an anonymous piece on the theme of losing a loved one to suicide. In the end, I wrote three different contributions- all with my name to them. Somewhere along the journey it seemed to no longer make sense to withhold my name, given the nature of the book. How can I write pieces that are supposed to break down the stigma and shame surrounding certain subjects, and encourage people to speak their truth-but yet not put my name to them? I fully understand the desire and sometimes necessity for people to remain anonymous, including some of my co-collaborators. But I couldn’t in the end, knowing that my reasons for doing so had nothing to do with the subject matter of the pieces I had written, nor was there any real need for me to do so.
I was just afraid they weren’t good enough. I was afraid, quite simply, of how people would judge my decision to write them at all-after all, who do I think I am? I’m not a ‘writer’ or an expert in the field of mental health. What qualifies me to be giving any sort of contribution, and what if it turned out to be more than a bit sh*t?! These were the overarching fears that were holding me back. I was intimidated by the quality of the other contributions, riddled with self doubt about my own abilities and dubious about whether my experiences were enough to appear alongside other peoples harrowing and well crafted stories. When I first read the piece Maria had written as her submission I was left sobbing, and I couldn’t imagine anything I had to say would be so emotive or informed.
It seems fear kills creativity just as well as it does confidence. In the end I forced myself to write down everything I would say, if I was to set aside any fears of rejection and judgement. It was a hard but cathartic exercise, which really brought my awareness back to the initial aim of the project. All these thoughts and feelings I’d suppressed and stopped my self from speaking openly. Every time I wanted to give voice to them, I’d resisted. How often I’d ignored my gut and my own feelings, filtering them through my ‘fear funnel’ before putting them out to the world. That doesn’t sit well with my aim to live as authentically and heart led as possible. I’d let my hearts voice and feelings on things be drowned out to a whisper by the shouting of fears and uncertainties around whether I was good or qualified enough, and how i’d be received.
The realisation that I still have work to do around the fear of rejection is a useful and welcome one. It’s pushed me to write and experiment even more these last few weeks. It’s given me a focus and an issue to take ownership of, re-directing my energy from the external and things I can have no control over. I can’t control how people will receive what I’ve written, I can only control to an extent my emotional response-the initial feelings that potential rejections and criticism of my ‘truth’ will spark within me. The only thing I can take control and ownership over fully is how I react. I can choose to look at potential failure and criticism as an opportunity for personal growth and the starting point for a new path, or I can let fear stop me dead in my tracks from doing something I want – as it has done with this and so many other things before. Well I guess I know which one I’m choosing this time! 🙂