Braving Writing

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.

— Brené Brown

At the end of July, much like the end of December, I look forward with great anticipation to the start of a new year. I think of the things I’ll be able to do now that I have a focus, now that the holidays/summer is over, now that . . .

And then, just as I have re-re-re-re-discovered, reality and my imagination aren’t quite in sync the way I’d like them to be. I can think about what I want to have happen. I can even tell someone else what I want to have happen. And then the day job surges and the kids have activities and the spouse changes jobs and before I know it, the members of my writing group are sending pages and I’m floundering and stuck and frustrated.

While the latest disappointment in myself surged, I was listening to Brené Brown’s Rising Strong was particularly intrigued by the idea she presents in there about BRAVING for the ways we engage with others, an acronym which stands for:

  • Boundaries
  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Vault
  • Integrity
  • Nonjudgment
  • Generosity

Then, as she usually does, Brené spun the acronym around and asked how well we do at honoring these things in ourselves, and I realized that in my efforts to honor what I say I’ll do in my engagements, I am very quick — too quick — to dismiss commitments I’ve made to myself. And, as I’m watching writers in all walks of life transition from the footloose life of summer, I think I’m not the only one.

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The Rising Strong Process includes:

  • The Reckoning: walking into our story
  • The Rumble: owning our story
  • The Revolution: writing a new ending and changing how we engage with the world

Sure, I’d love to give you a set of steps that will help you recognize what needs to be done to transition to honoring your own work as well as you honor the work requested by others, but the bottom line is I don’t have the answers.

And, unfortunately, there can’t really be answers — at least not as clean-cut as I’d like. In order to start the Rising Strong Process, we have to have a reckoning, which includes the uncomfortable realization that we are creators of SFDs — Shitty First Drafts (courtesy of Anne Lamott), or Stormy First Drafts if you are looking for a G-rated version). I know people who have been writing for a while know this is the case when we are crafting stories, but it was a grand ah-ha! for me to realize that I was telling myself these stories in regards to things in my own life – specifically my writing.

SFD #1: I’m at the point in my writing career where no one knows, really, where I’m at in my progress (except, perhaps, my agent). People are busy and they have their own pursuits, so since no one knows what I’m doing, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get writing in TODAY because there isn’t as much urgency right now.

Truth #1: I never started this writing journey for anyone else. I am a happier person, I feel more soul-deep satisfaction when I am writing. Besides nurturing the relationships with people close to me, there aren’t many things that make me feel the way writing makes me feel.

SFD #2: Honoring the meetings I have with other people is more important than the meetings I think about scheduling with myself.

Truth #2: If I have learned anything over the last 18 months of negotiating unstable brain and body chemicals, it is that paying attention to what I need to do for me is incredibly important. Thinking that I will be able to just ignore the pursuit of writing and then have it come back because I want it at that moment is ridiculous, I know it is ridiculous, I have learned time and again that it is ridiculous.

SFD #3: I don’t have time to write.

Truth #3: I have proven to myself and others over and over and over that when there is something I am dedicated to, I get it done. Period. I have time to write, but I choose to cruise through social media, play mind-numbing games, or just zone out in general. I know the process to engage in the work I love can take some time to transition into, but lately I haven’t even attempted to try.

While this technique is very valuable in helping understand why our productivity isn’t quite where it should be, I think it is also important to be honest with ourselves when it comes to feedback we receive from other people. Rising Strong recommends starting with the phrase, “The story I’m telling myself is . . . ”

Got a bad review? “The story I’m telling myself is . . . ”

Didn’t get as far in a contest, from partial or full request, or while on submission as you wanted? “The story I’m telling myself is . . . ”

Feel a little whisper of envy creeping in at the progress, sales, accolades, reviews, rights, etc. that a friend is receiving when you are not?  “The story I’m telling myself is . . .”

The bottom line is we, as writers, have volunteered to engage in life in a way that is going to try our dedication to ourselves, to our craft, to the world around us. We have demonstrated the courage, as both Brown and Theodore Roosevelt explained, to enter the arena, to engage in life with intentionality, to seek after something that is a little beyond what might generally be expected. And, as such, we are going to get knocked down. We might even be the one to knock ourselves down. That much is true.

The question that we must ask ourselves is how will we choose to rise?

TashaTasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as a board member for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

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