I have always told myself that writing is my purpose. I pass by bookstores and my fervent desire is to have my book on a shelf. I remember how this thought shaped me as a little girl. I threw myself into learning about and practicing writing and it shaped me into the passionate person I am. Now, as an adult juggling a day job and my dreams of a writing career, I struggle with time, motivation, and inspiration. Now, I write in notebooks I never finish. I write scraps of poetry to ease that wound you get when it’s been too long since you wrote something beautiful.
But if writing is my priority then why am I consumed with fighting battles at the workplace? Why do I find myself gazing longingly at my notebook while resubmitting the same policies, strategies and plans over and over for approvals? It’s funny how easy it is to get distracted from the vision you had for yourself and the vital building blocks your soul needs to be happy. My greatest fear has always been the fear of being ordinary, but now I wonder if what I’m really afraid of is realizing my ultimate potential.
In an effort to connect to my words, I went back and reread the craft books I read growing up. Author Natalie Goldberg’s timed writing techniques have had a profound effect on me. She taught me that the first rule of writing is to keep your hand moving, even if it’s only for ten minutes. I learned how to lose control writing, to be specific, and to go for the jugular. I learned that the basis of writing practice is kindness.
I consider Goldberg to be my second writing mentor (the first being my father). It’s fascinating to me now to reread all the books that fell apart in my hands on Kindle and on audible. Listening to her narrate her own books was emotional, like meeting your favorite author in real life. I listened to The Writing Life, ideas and inspirations for anyone who wants to write, a conversation between Goldberg and fellow author Julie Cameron about their personal lives and how writing can best be practiced.
For the next few weeks, I wrote morning pages, a technique by Cameron that is designed to help unblock creativity. The idea is that if you write it as soon as you wake up, the fog starts to lift. I dutifully set the alarm earlier and kept my notebook on my bedside table.
At first, all I wrote was a series of whines about being sleepy and not wanting to go to work. I sounded like a petulant child but it was okay because even I wasn’t supposed to go back and read these lines. Most days I aimed to write when I first got to work, but when I couldn’t I didn’t beat myself up. I reminded myself that this was a daily act of self-love and that I had to remember to breathe and continue. I tried doing Goldberg’s timed writing in random intervals. I set a timer and wrote ‘I want to write’ and I watched my messy thoughts slowly become more concrete. Whenever I lost my way, I went back and listened to these two women having a conversation about writing and cried over the certainty that writing will exist long after we’re gone.
Goldberg counsels that stress is the disconnection with earth and the forgetting of breath, and so I unclench the jaw I’ve been grinding and I remember to breathe. I inhale and exhale even writing these lines. It’s one word after another. It’s only one sentence after another. It’s trickling through my fingers and it feels so easy. Why had I been putting writing off for so long?
Life is full of clanging doldrums; it’s easy to get caught up fighting losing battles in the workplace and to fill your time with tasks you are not passionate about. With the summer months upon us, I know I will be taking advantage of the cold blast of the air conditioning to wade through all the clutter and distractions, and to reconnect with all the things that bring joy to my soul. If God never burdens those who don’t have the strength to bear it, then I am certain that the burden and responsibility of growing with your art is one we have to undertake with complete surrender and faith. This is a reminder to your heart and soul. This is your awakening. Whatever your purpose in this life is, rekindle that love affair and let it ground you. Begin again.
Shahd Thani is an Emirati romance writer, poet, and an Untitled Chapter member.