It’s been a while. The reasons for my extended online absence are numerous, but I do not wish to obey the urge to justify and explain myself. I just want to write something freely and authentically, letting go as best I can of any ideas of what a blog should or shouldn’t be, of what I should or shouldn’t say, of my judgements of myself and my work. The perfectionist tendency, the harsh inner critic, has caused me a lot of anxiety in many areas of life but especially in writing, and has silenced me time and again. It is my hope that more and more I find the courage to act anyway, and that’s more or less what I want to write about today.
I became so weary of writing my blog because of the unrealistic expectations I was placing upon myself, which were leading to an ever-increasing sense of dread. I wanted everything I wrote to be good in some way, and writing with that in mind is a joyless experience. What is good writing anyway? We recognise it but it is not easily defined. I defined it for myself as beautiful, engaging, and/or useful. Writing with either of the first two qualities in mind paralysed me. I could not set out to write anything beautiful or engaging without sickening myself with a flood of critique and judgement. Beauty and appeal must come organically. So what about useful? Could I at least make my blog posts useful? Alas, no! How could I trust that something I wrote would be useful to others? I know what is useful to me, but I didn’t trust my own judgement; I felt foolish and presumptuous.
My motivation disappeared because fear isn’t an ideal fuel, not long-term at least, and especially not for creativity. For a while I kept trying to push through, but I found myself swinging between two extremes: either writing something light, airy and—I thought—superficial, or writing something authentic, raw and—I thought—dangerously vulnerable. I couldn’t find any middle ground and I couldn’t handle either extreme. One felt fake and the other traitorous. Both fed my fear and left me frozen. So, after a long internal struggle, I surrendered; I stopped trying to force something that just wasn’t working.
My life did not feel like it was working very well either. Last year was a tough one for me. I felt deeply homesick. I spent five months working at a factory that reminded me of Dickens stories, where we were constantly yelled at to go faster and were discouraged from talking too much with one another lest we get distracted from our work. There was illness and injury in my family, and I worried from afar, feeling helpless. Then there was injury and illness for myself, and I feared I would never get better. There was unemployment. Financial struggle. Existential angst. Depression and anxiety. Sometimes all these pains and fears lay so heavy upon me, so debilitating, that as soon as I walked through my front door beyond the gaze of the world, I would crumple and cry. I remember weeks of this, as I tried to find another job, holding in tears until I could get safe behind my door again, and dissolve.
I have painted a bleak picture of last year, which is inaccurate. There was much beauty and love as well, even through the darkest times. It moves me to think of how patiently and lovingly my partner supported me in both a psychological and practical sense. He kept the roof over our heads while encouraging me to take the time I needed to find a job that nourished me and to heal my mental health. Family and friends were there for me when I reached out; I visited home and felt so nurtured and cared for, and as I was in much physical pain at the time, I had to humbly accept that I could not do much, and simply offer gratitude for all the care I received. The exquisite natural beauty of my homeland inspired me to creativity I had not felt in ages.
When I returned to Australia, I missed home of course, but I continued to get outside and appreciate the nature here as well. I got better physically. It took longer to feel better psychologically, but slowly I did. I got a part-time job fundraising for a non-profit environmental organisation. It wasn’t perfect but it was a good cause and it allowed me to contribute something financially to my household again. Earlier this year I got my first studio job as a yoga teacher, something I had been shrinking from pursuing the previous year, out of fear. It has and continues to be a deeply rewarding experience. I still regularly get anxious before a class, I still have days where I doubt my abilities and worry I’m not good enough, but it’s getting easier, and there are also days that I feel really good about what I can offer people in this role. I feel so grateful to be able to help others to nourish themselves in this way, and for that all the anxiety is worthwhile. (Besides, anxiety is just something I have to work with in general!)
I have also started writing again, far more consistently than I have in years. I have started on some big projects that I have dreamed about for over a decade. I recently took a short writing course for inspiration and tips for writing fiction specifically. One of the most helpful things I got out of it was the reassurance that first drafts do not have to be good. In fact, they very likely will be quite bad, and that’s okay. It is all part of the process. Just keep writing. Let that be the goal. It’s not always easy, but I no longer expect it to be. Just keep writing.
So what does all this mean for my blog? Well, I guess I don’t know. I have thought a lot about what I want to do with it going forward, feeling like I needed a plan. But actually, I think I just need to drop the expectations of myself. I need to stop thinking that I need to write a good blog, and just write a blog. It is entirely your decision, dear reader, if you read it, and entirely beyond my control what you think of it! Of course I hope it may be interesting or useful to those who take the time to read my posts, but I can’t control that either. So ultimately, my plan is to just keep writing. Part of the delight of the writing process is discovering what unfolds that you never could have planned. Letting the writing write itself, in a way.
To finish, I would just like to thank all of you—those who know me and personally support me in my life, and those who don’t. Thank you for being there, for caring about what I have to say. May we all find freedom in the unique creative expression of our lives, whether through some kind of art or something else. May we all treat ourselves kindly, may we treat each other kindly. With love, Tegan