God Has This, I wrote that

Lost

I’ve been writing more. Actually, let’s fix that: I’ve just actually been writing lately. Like, actual words on an actual screen. Nothing that has seen the light of day, but I’ve been actually doing the work of writing words. To be honest, I hope it sees the light of day in the somewhat near future. I’m just not ready for that yet.

Because writing is hard.

I’m clearly the first person who has ever said that.

After years and years of making words appear on screens, it has never gotten any easier. I am a perfectionist and my own worst critic so it doesn’t take much to make me feel inadequate. Even the blinking cursor taunts me with it’s blinking. The taunts change depending what I’m writing about. Sometime it’s a blinking rhythm of “your writing’s crap your writing’s crap your writing’s crap” and other times it’s more succinct with a repetitive “nope, nope, nope, nope” even as I type. My computer’s cursor is really negative.

As mean as my cursor is, I’m afraid that the opinions of others has made “writer’s block” a semi-permanent condition that I have to fight through. Constantly. And that’s when I’m in a season of staying off the internet. It’s infinitely worse when I hop onto Facebook and even the Instagram. (I stay off Twitter anymore. I can’t with Twitter right now.) I see people I know (and friends I love) rail against people who have different opinions than their own. I read the posts and the comments they leave when someone makes a big mistake. And that’s just from people I’m friends with on Facebook. That doesn’t even cover the comments I see from strangers that criticize other mothers for the way they parent. The pitchfork and knives come out when someone dares to post a different side to the popular view of the collective internet. I’ve seen women’s bodies judged and their every decision questioned. It’s such a warm and inviting place, the internet. It’s no wonder I prefer hiding behind a carefully “curated” Instagram post.

The funny thing is I’ve been doing this “writing on-line” thing off and on for years. Writing had always helped me process and figure out how I feel about a thing. I used to publish those words and feelings with abandon. (And with a lack of responsibility that actually makes me cringe when I think back to the early days.) Those words let me heal and process and even connect with other people that I may not have ever known otherwise. I was able to learn and grow because of the words I typed onto a screen and because of the words that other people typed onto their screens. Especially because of the words of others. But in the past few years especially, I can’t seem to make it happen. The fluffy (or funny) post here and there was just easier. No, it was safer. It was safer to stick to the funny fluff and curated posts. How could anyone get mad at that?  (Spoiler alert: they super can.)

*****

I’ve heard somewhere before that your biggest fears stem from things that have already happened to you. If you’re scared of semi-trucks sideswiping your car, it’s maybe because a semi sideswiped you years ago. Or that irrational fear of opening a champagne bottle? Probably because once upon a time, a champagne bottle burst open and the cork sideswiped your face. There are a lot of sideswiping fears, apparently. And yes, both of these things happened to me but the point is that these fears stick around because, ridiculous or not, there are events and happenings that impact our memories forever. And some of these fears run pretty deep and, yeah…even make it difficult to write.

Do you know what my biggest fear is with writing anything? Not that people will hate it (although, that *would* suck) but that it would make them angry at me. I have a giant fear that the words I might write would make people hate me and I would lose my friends and family…my community. That I would be alone and abandoned because of something I had said or done or written.

Just typing that makes me feel so much shame and embarrassment. It makes me feel like a child. But that fear sticks around and ruins my writing because that has happened before. Not because of my writing but definitely because of something I had done.

*****

I was 18 when I got pregnant with Paige. I was in my second semester of college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Even though some of my friends had left and were away for college, I still had good people and good friends around me. I was a well-liked, much loved member of my community – which was mostly wrapped around a very conservative church setting. I was loved by adults and my peers. I was super involved in my church.

And it all came crashing down when everyone found out I was pregnant.

Someday I’ll write about the loneliness of teen pregnancy and my experience. I’ll write about how hardly anyone talked to me because they, I guess, didn’t know what to say. How I was released from my church duties because I was no longer a good example to those around me. I had a couple of friends who were there for me but they had their own life to live because we were 18 and that’s exactly what should’ve happened. But me? Well, goody-goody, teacher’s pet me had made a pretty hefty mistake. I fell off an impossibly high pedestal and my world came tumbling down around me. The fall was painful enough. The loneliness and abandonment was devastating.

*****

I’ve healed so much from that time long ago. Just like my car that was sideswiped by a semi-truck, there were repairs and fixes that made things better. But the fear? Sometimes that sticks around long after the repairs or healing have been done. Even though I know I made it through all of that and came through so much stronger on the other side. Even though I know that I ended up better than ok. Even though I know that I’m a better person because of everything I have walked through, the fear of losing the people I love – my community – still haunts me. It also seems to haunt my cursor and my ability to write. It’s a terrible feeling I wish I didn’t have. Because I know that I need to do this. I also know that I miss writing when I let the mean cursor scare me away.

Do you know that I have ever admitted how much I love to write? To myself or anyone else. I think every time I talk about it, I downplay it all. I don’t ever talk about how I play out an event or scene in my head as a story I want to tell. How I can see someone – a stranger – out and about and I craft their story and their “what might be” in my head as I drive or walk along. I think about areas of my life that are seeing a lot of learning and growth and how I could write about it and maybe, just maybe, it could help someone else learn and grow too if I could only, you know, actually write about it. I am constantly writing a story in my head and yet I don’t consider myself a writer.

I totally and completely love writing but today is the first day where I’m actually letting myself admit it.

I honestly don’t know if I am any good at it. And I am ABSOLUTELY not fishing for anyone to tell me one way or the other. I just owe it to myself to just do it. Even if it’s terrible. Even if I’ve never been formally trained to do such things and I don’t have a fancy degree. Even though I know that everything has already been said.

I just need to keep reminding myself that it hasn’t been said by me yet. And why not me? There’s no reason why I can’t have a say or a story so long as I remember that I have zero control about how any of this is received. My job is to be honest about what’s on my heart and what I know I need to write about. The rest is up to God. Not me.

I know that fear never fully goes away. Anytime you give of yourself and your time and your heart, fear wants to ride shotgun and be the navigator of all the decisions. But this is where I try so hard to let faith and love be much bigger than the fears. Maybe, just maybe, this time I’ll actually make it stick.

 

Jill Mansfield, writer, Jill Mansfield writer,

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