Today, I thought it would be fun to highlight a creator that inspired me this week. I would like to introduce you to poet Andrea Gibson; who’s recent post to her blog “Things That Don’t Suck” supported me in reflecting on the work that I aim to do in the world. In the piece “How a Writer Decides What to Write About, ” Gibson begins with a question that I have asked myself many times throughout my life; How do I choose what to write about?
By Andrea Gibson
I’ve always been a writer; though for many years I stopped doing it. I’ll get to the why a bit later. In thinking about that question; I wanted to go back in time to when I first began writing. When I was a young boy my mother encouraged me to keep a journal. I remember us going to the local Office Max (Office Depot for the younger folks) and mom letting me pick a hard cover pale blue note book. Every night before bed, I would sit at my desk in my sky-blue bedroom; select the appropriate shade that matched my mood that day, from my 10-color, ball point retractable pen; and I would jot down all of my reflections, feelings and observations. I wrote about school - who I talked to that day; who I played with at recess and what teacher might have pissed me off. In the pages of that journal I would let that teacher know about herself. I would write about my friends from my neighborhood. Whether or not I got to go outside after school; and if so, who I got to see that day. I wrote about where we would ride our bikes or if we played with our action figures in the front or the back yard. I wrote about the annoying girls on the block that tried to interrupt our fun. I wrote about how fun my life was and how I looked forward to my next day to create more.
10-color, ball point Retractable Pen
I reflected on my family. Whether or not I got to see my favorite cousin Shaun. What my grandfather made for lunch after picking me up from school. I explained why I found it unfair and offensive that Shaun would get six chicken nuggets and I would get five. Sure, he was three years older but we were practically the same size. I would write about my parents – how they made me feel that day. What conversations we might have had. If one of them made me upset; just like those teachers, I would let them have it with no holds barred ; often in purple ink, all caps with lots of exclamation points and underlined words. If I said it to them directly I would have surely been in huge trouble; but in the pages of my journal I could speak freely. The journal provided me with a space to be free and unapologetically me.
As I got older; the little boys of my childhood grew up and we grew apart. Many moved away and our paths rarely crossed. The three years between Shaun and I created a greater divide between us and my journals became a more somber space. I would write about feeling different, misunderstood and invisible. I wrote about how I longed for close friends and connections. I expressed my anger about the tensions between my father and I how I felt that my grandfather didn’t like me as much as his other grandsons. I complained about how my mom sheltered me. I felt like I was living in waiting room and desired freedom from it. In my journal, I made plans for myself for when I grew up and could begin living my life fully.
Then, I stopped writing for a long time. If/When I did write it was for a school assignment, or something I had to do for work. I would often buy a beautiful new journal, write in it for a about a month, then lose it; as it got shuffled into a stack of magazines or buried under the bed. When I did find it and try to start again, my journal entries turned more into “to do” lists.
· Clean the kitchen
· Exercise at 6pm for 45 minutes
· Drink 8 glasses of water
· Go to bed by 9pm.
I wrote less and less about my thoughts, feeling and reflections and more about what I needed to get done or should have done already. When I could check items off of my list as “complete” I felt good (for the moment). As other items lingered unchecked; seeing them written down made me feel bad about myself. So, I stopped writing.
When I felt compelled to write again; I knew what I wanted to write about but did not know if I had enough intellectual insight to share my thoughts and opinions; even if I was only writing for myself. Having worked in toxic environments for many years; where people mischaracterized pessimism as critical thinking; I began to overanalyze my thought and diminish their value. I thought to myself:
· Do I have enough information on the topic?
· Had I done enough reading to have an opinion?
I believed that if I was to put anything on paper (or in a Word document) I needed to have research and evidence. I felt like I had to know who I was writing for and what they needed to hear. It couldn’t have typos or misspellings. My word choices couldn’t be remedial. The formatting had to be perfect and my arguments couldn’t never be easily refuted. This thought processed stopped me for years.
Things shifted for me after listening to a presentation from famed motivational speaker and author Esther Hicks. In this lecture she provided the example of how a radio station operates by sending out information daily whether they know who’s listening or not. Though this is an older analogy that doesn’t take into consideration how much data and science are involved in the process now; how I understood this was that I have the ability to create and send out whatever you want. We all can create space and authority within our own lives to express whatever we need to get out; in order to feel good and free. Create it, share it freely and allow your audience to tune into you. It reminded me that must write for me first. My hope is that my words resonate with others and empower them to share their own thoughts and manifest their internal visions for their lives.
· After reading Andrea Gibson’s what did it make you reflect on?
· What do you enjoy writing about?
· What vision do you need to write out plainly for your life to change?