Why Writing Is Worthwhile (even when you are unsure what you are writing or why)

“I am a writer.”

“What are you writing?”

“Well … Nothing in particular … Lots of things, but not one thing specifically … I mean, nothing I can publish or anything … I mean, nothing ….”

Does this sound familiar to anyone?  I hope I’m not alone in this. Why all the qualifiers? What makes our writing worthy or unworthy?  Does it have to be published to be worthy? Are we real writers if we don’t have a specific project in process?  What gives our writing value?

We writers like to place our thoughts onto the page. We like to string words together. We like to play with them. We pull over to the side of the road while we are driving just to scribble thoughts on scraps of paper before they fly out the window.

Our writing is worthwhile, just because we do it, but here a few more reasons why:

  • Morning pages” are worthwhile, even though they’re often grammatically-incorrect ramblings. Getting our thoughts and feelings out of our heads and onto the page clears away the clutter, settles our monkey mind, gets our fingers moving and the ideas flowing.
  • Even if a fully fledged piece doesn’t emerge, exploring an idea on the page is worthwhile. We could leave the scrap of paper on the floorboard of our car, or we could explore it a little and give it a chance to grow into something meaningful.
  • Commenting on articles or posts is worthwhile. Why not take part in the conversation? And forcing ourselves to encapsulate our opinions into coherent, persuasive arguments helps tighten lazy thinking.
  • Publishing pieces on our personal blogs or even anonymously has value simply in the act of sharing insights and experiences that another person may find helpful or entertaining.
  • Even texting can be worthwhile, sometimes building and deepening our relationships. I think of texts from my best friend at just the right moment offering a thoughtful insight or encouragement.
  • Writing down our memories and processing difficult life experiences is extremely worthwhile even if we will never share them. It helps us learn about ourselves and move through the hard stuff.

I’m not sure why we tend dismiss such an essential part of who we are. I suppose it’s fear. (Isn’t the answer always fear?) Fear grabs ahold of us when we are vulnerable. And writing definitely makes us vulnerable. Nevertheless, I am compelled to keep stringing words together, whether I am brave enough to share them or not.

Advertisements

Me

Flats of various colors and designs

Tank tops with cardigans

Curly hair

Long legs

Coffee – no sugar, no sweetener, no flavoring

Sunsets

Fresh flowers

Poetry

Classical music

The Jam, English Beat, Violent Femmes

Smiling

Sunshine

Dogs

Walks

Journals

Lists

Baking

Home cooking

A good cry

Therapy

Flight

Friends

Meditation

Introspection

Writing

Judgment

Quiet

Asthma inhaler

Two sizes too big

Thoughtfulness

Strength

Cold beer

Ginger ale

Busy

Caring

Courage

Critical eye

Unattached

Blue

Being loved

On the Path to Self-Discovery With the Duchess of York

First published on Huffington Post, 2011-05-20

I’ve always liked Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Perhaps it is that she came on the scene when I was a teenage girl and infatuated with the royal weddings, like girls today. Perhaps it was her curly hair, which matched my own. Or her slight chunkiness, which also matched my own. Over the past decade, it’s been sad to watch what seemed to be her spiral downward. Last year, when she was caught on tape in the alleged bribery scandal, it appeared we were witnessing her self-destruction. However, as I watched Oprah’s interview with Sarah last week, I felt hopeful for her again. She still seems a bit shaky and just a little bit desperate, but she also appears to have found at least the trailhead of her own path to self-discovery.

Interspersed throughout the Oprah interview were clips from Sarah’s upcoming series on OWN, “Finding Sarah,” where she is counseled by Dr. Phil and Suze Orman to help her find her way. While I’m not a big fan of on-camera therapy, especially when it’s coming from Suze Orman who hardly seems qualified — I mean, who goes to their financial advisor for help with self-esteem issues? I was struck by one moment in particular when Sarah asks Suze with hopeless frustration in her voice, “How do you get self-worth? I don’t know how to get it!”

I remember years ago asking that question of my therapist with much the same frustration. While I cannot relate to life as a royal, I can certainly relate to Sarah’s personal struggle of not knowing her true value, making destructive choices and self-sabotage, and I know I am not alone.

It is at these low points in life when we realize we are going at it all wrong, that life is just not working, and we begin our own personal journey of self-discovery. For me it was also a journey of spiritual discovery — where I came to discover that I am a spiritual being, that I have within me the power of the “divine,” that I am — like every one else — a unique expression of God. I’m not sure where Sarah’s journey will take her, but I do believe it is a vital journey for every person to take.

A couple of practices were essential for me as I worked through my issues and came to discover my inner peace and confidence. I found that I had to:

Become aware of self-talk

Most of the time, we are unaware of our own thoughts. When we stop for a moment and observe our self-talk, some of us find that the voice in our head can be pretty unpleasant. It’s like hanging out with a nagging critic who points out our faults as we move throughout the day. If we let this critic go unchecked, it can lead to feeling pretty crappy about ourselves.  If we believe we are unloved and unlovable, it’s no wonder we look outside ourselves to fill the inner void.

But we can’t change what we are not aware of. So we need to shine some light on the self-critical thoughts and conversations that are happening in the background of our minds. At first we just need to become the observer and bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings. We can say, “Isn’t that interesting,” as a thought passes through our awareness. That’s enough to release any charge of negativity a thought or feeling may be carrying.

Find peace within

When we feel empty inside, it’s natural to seek someone or something to fill the emptiness. But there is no one or no thing that can give us what we need. Lasting peace, happiness and acceptance can only be found within. If we are having trouble finding peace, it may be that we need to remove some clutter.

Meditation is the most valuable tool we have for uncovering the treasure trove of peace and well-being that is within. In the silence, we touch serenity, we feel our spirits expanding, we feel spacious freedom and, most importantly, we connect with our inner wisdom.

The choice of meditation practices is wide-ranging. It doesn’t need to be complicated or require much special instruction. In Unity, one of the practices we teach is silent meditation. In a recent article in Daily Word, Rev. Carolyne Mathlin offers this simple technique to begin:

Sit quietly in the silence. If you need a focus, follow your breath. If your mind chatters, and it will, just gently return focus to your breath. Dissolve into the silence and let the silence reveal Itself to you.

I do not believe there is any other practice that has been more beneficial to my spiritual growth than meditation. If you don’t have a meditation practice of your own or have let it lapse, I encourage you to start one today and find the peace that lives within you.

* * * * *

Laura Harvey is the editor of Daily Word, a daily devotional magazine, published by Unity since 1924. Unity emphasizes the practical, everyday application of spiritual principles to help people live more abundant and meaningful lives.

Good Enough Just as We Are

 

First published on Huffington Post, 2010-12-01

More than a year ago a good friend sent me an email that I’ve saved in my inbox. Every now and then I open it. It always makes me smile. She wrote: “Just a reminder, in case you forget: You are perfect in every way. Say it. Know it. Feel it.” I can’t remember what prompted her email, but most likely she noticed I was caught up in self-doubt, as occasionally happens. When expectations are high, deadlines are looming, and my responsibilities are piling up, I tend to get anxious, overwhelmed and unsure of myself, which is exactly the opposite of what’s needed. Feeling inadequate is generally a success-killer.

We all suffer from insecurity at times, but when our internal dialogue turns nasty and mean, it undermines our happiness and our ability to grow and succeed. For me, the chain often starts with a vague sense that I’m not getting enough done, even though I am “doing” all the time. I’m the mother of two boys. I’m a wife. I work full-time, and then some. I’m the cook, the grocery shopper, the house cleaner, the homework assistant, the arbiter of my son’s Xbox screen time. I’m a busy woman! But, to my internal critic, it is never enough. We beat ourselves up for the foolish things we do, the unhealthy habits, the judgmental thoughts, the imperfections.  Soon we find ourselves carrying around a big ball of self-loathing, which can be a real pain.

In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be.” So why are we constantly trying to be more than we are? Why isn’t this good enough? How do we change our self-loathing into self-love?

Recognizing the illusion of our egoic thoughts is a start. Eckhart Tolle describes it this way, “Behind every negative self-concept is the hidden desire of being the greatest or better than others …. Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.” Being conscious of the voice of our ego is how we release ourselves from the prison of self-judgment and blame. Our true essence is so much deeper than what our ego would have us believe.

We are more than our to-do lists, more than our personalities, more than our bodies or the roles we play in life. We are spiritual beings. We are the physical expression of spiritual power. The late author, metaphysician and theologian Eric Butterworth told us to sing our song of wholeness. He wrote: “Take time to be still and listen to the beat of your heart and feel the throb of your pulse. The universe is celebrating itself in you as an instrument of life. It is singing itself into your soul, saying, ‘You are alive, you are whole, and you are being healed and renewed in a constant rhapsody of life.'”

Imagine how we would live if we believed we were enough, if we were no longer comparing ourselves to others or judging ourselves on some arbitrary scale of bad and good, better and best. We loosen the grip of our inner critic by simply becoming aware of its influence. We don’t need to argue or resist the negative thoughts — just notice them, and affirm the truth as a counterbalance. Every time a thought of shame, guilt, disgust or mild irritation enters our minds, we recognize it and weaken its ability to take hold of our perception. We deny the lie that our egos would have us believe and affirm the truth that we are whole and perfect, just the way we are.

A recent daily message in Daily Word, the magazine for which I serve as editor, suggests the following way out of self-doubt: “I can consciously stop the negative talk in my mind and begin a new kind of conversation. I remember that I am a whole, shining, beloved child of God with unlimited potential. Nothing stops me but my own worries and fears. I have everything I need to succeed through the wisdom and power of God within me.”

When my friend wrote me that note about being perfect, she wasn’t saying I could never make a mistake. She was saying she saw the real me — the divine spark within, the song of my wholeness, my indwelling Christ nature — and she wanted me to see it too.

When we have found peace within ourselves and made peace with our bodies, our skills, our strengths and our weaknesses, we have the key to living happy and fulfilling lives. We just have to stop believing every thought that runs through our minds and start believing the truth of our innate wholeness. We are good enough just as we are.