“Oh mom, you’re going to be fine.” That’s my 21-year-old responding to me this morning on Facetime when I told her that I was flipping out about my brand new 5-month Wild Writing Teacher Training, which starts in one week.
“You got this,” she said, rolling her eyes, and moving on to things more pressing, like “look how my skin is clearing up,” she says, bringing the Iphone up against her forehead so I can see every pore on her sweet little face.
She’s right. I could teach the training this very minute, even if I’d gotten no sleep, hadn’t put my contacts in, had shown up with bed head, not enough coffee, no notes, and had forgotten to put on my pants. I mean, I’ve been doing this work for 25 years. It’s in my bones. But apparently, so is anxiety and perfectionism because I seem to need to go through a sickening amount of grief before I can swim like a brave little fish into new waters.
- Will the students be happy?
- Is there enough content to warrant a real training?
- Will my brain go blank in the middle of teaching and I’ll forget what I’m talking about?
- Can I really help these good people become Wild Writing teachers?
- Will they get their money’s worth?
- Is the coffee strong enough? Should I have gotten more chocolate?
Nothing like a good dose of perfectionism mixed with the fear of humiliation to keep me awake at night. Not only that, but this anxiety has had me stay as close to home as I could these last few months, begging off dates and plans with friends because I believed that if I just stare at my notes and rearrange them 50,000 times I’ll unlock the secrets to the training and it will be PERFECT!
This is nuts and I know it. As a creative person I instinctively know that having the perfect notes, the air tight exercises, and the perfectly intelligent things to say will kill the juju magic that might otherwise saunter in when I’m not expecting it – the juju magic that I hadn’t even planned for, and which – if I’m lucky – will grace my training. But I’ve got to let go of the reins for it to happen.
It’s total wabi sabi, a bow to imperfection, and it also reminds me of the Leonard Cohen quote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
So why would I want to kill the aliveness just to look good?
If anyone hates staying within the lines it’s me, but look how nervousness wants to turn me into a scared little school girl, reciting straight from the book so I can get an A?
I like what my friend Michael, a savvy businessman who pitches ideas to Fortune 500 companies said to me about his anxiety when he’s going into these meetings.
“There’s something about nervousness being connected to creativity,” he began. “The presentations I’ve done where it’s like I’m just plugging in a CD and playing it like I’m on automatic, those have no creativity. But the new presentations, the big ones, where I’m nervous means the creative brain is active. I’m thinking on my feet, my antenna is out and I’m reading my audience.”
I love that. He’s loose, but he’s connected. But what about all his notes, all that getting ready?
“Of course I prep,” he tells me. “But once I’m in the room, I let go. I don’t try to remember anything – just let it be original, authentic. I want to connect. I want to remove the barrier between me and who I’m presenting to.”
Michael trusts himself, like it’s in his bones, like it’s coming through him.
“Well what about any secret talismans you bring into the room?” I ask him. (I love how I’m still looking for some secret weapon to make everything work out!)
“The only thing I carry is a handkerchief,” Michael says, “which is a tribute to my father – and which reminds me to be a gentleman. I also try to stay grateful for all who’ve helped me, mentored me, and taught me lessons. If I can carry them in my heart, it’s like an army standing behind me.”
Boom. Thank you Yoda.
And honestly, this little exchange I had with Michael as I was writing this blog calmed me down.
It reminded me that while I’ll probably be adding to those notes right up until I walk into that workshop, the only things that I really need to bring into the Wild Writer Teacher Training are:
- Gratitude that this creative mishegas is my work.
- Trust that the material really is in my bones and not in my notes.
- Appreciation for the 10 souls who are traveling across bridges and oceans and state lines to work with me.
And mostly a big bow to the work itself, which is not about me, but which is a wildly creative process that is healing and beautiful and wants to be shared with more people. That’s what we’re really doing in that room. That’s what the training is about. Amen!
It is certainly in your bones. Your marrow is dense with that wild, deep creative connection work. I can attest when one meets you for the first time that warmth and wisdom is there to great all the fears we come in with. The “I am not good or creative enough.” You never made the space feel like it was about you as your presence and energy flows out and pulls us in. It becomes about the dance and going deep within.
You so got this! Wish that I could join these lucky souls.
ps You always have enough chocolate.
Honey honey honey xxxx
yes yes yes yes yes yes and yes – answers to all your questions 🙂 You bring the seeds, we (your students) will bring the rain. xoxo
Again with the raw and beautiful honesty. You have it, darlin’. You’ve got this and you draw all of this creative juju to you and send it out again. Thanks for including Michael’s words. Very wise. I agree with Cyn too! As someone said to me just this morning as the sun beamed down on us: WELCOME IT (the mishegas, the divorce, the fear, the not-enoughness, the wind lifting you…).
Tina – I’m so looking forward to getting to work with you. Thank you for the love.
Oh my dearest beautiful friend, teacher, mentor, wisdom carrying, soul nurturing, bringer of life to the page…you got this. In your bones, in your heart, in your soul, you were born to do this. I know, you awakened me, you inspired me, you believed in me, you introduced a whole new me to me. I wish you could be me for one Wild Writing 90 minute session first thing in the morning and see you and experience you from my insides. You would gasp with delight. You would laugh that delicious laugh of yours and through your head back and then shake it and say, ” WOW.” And I would nod and say, “I know, right?!?!” Right.
Gracey…thank you for taking the time to write me this note. You got my back baby and I can feel it. xxxx
You inspire me Laurie. Always.
You are so dear Merideth – thank you.
Laurie, for what it’s worth, if my life weren’t bonkers right now, I’d be begging you to make just one more spot for me in your class. I hope to be the first to sign up for your second round of this class because there WILL be a second round. You are so great and have so much to give. It’s time to go take a walk because you’ve got this.
Hear hear. Someday I’d love to be one of those people flying across continents to have the privilege of working with Laurie in person. Having taken and loved her online writing courses and having written inspired words in response to her writing prompts, I know how much working with her has changed my writing, and now I feel ready (having just given a presentation to students yesterday that was so much like what she described, and returned from a writing retreat closer to home) to try to embody and then learn to nurture a wilder creative process to help students get at the truths of their lived experience. Someday, we’ll meet, I’m sure of it.
Lesia, it would be a dream to have you fly across the country to write together sometime. It can happen. xxx
I feel the same way every photo session. 🙂
A wise woman writer instructor once said: “Learn to create a calm, hospitable place inside of yourself so that when the forest gets dark and you’re tripping over the low lying branches you’ll also be carrying a quiet light of faith inside of yourself that allows you to keep on”(L.W.) and, I might add, BE ENOUGH for yourself!! I echo what everyone else has said: Keep on touching all of our lives with your light and brilliance.
Wow Gaye, and now I remember saying that. Thank you so much for reminding me. That’s all that’s important. Thank you so much.
Yup – you got this!
Grace, creativity — you generate that in the world seemingly SO easily. Your training will be GREAT. This is how I relate: when I was a landscape architect, and I”d start a new project, that blank page resulted in butterflies in my stomach, doubts I’d have any ideas, never mind good ones. I thought this meant I just wasn’t meant to thrive in this profession. Years later, a talented friend/mentor who I admire to this day said “of COURSE! I feel that every time, still. It’s part of the creative process.” What?? OK, now I feel better…
Yeah! Yes! Yeah! Thank you xxx
LOVE this. Yes. Ditto to everything they each said. You got this. You are so loved. Thank you for your honesty. Now go put your feet up and turn your face to the sun, lovely! <3
Laurie, Laurie, So I met, finally, Rabbi (our family’s, your cousin, Tom) three nights ago in the house in Tucson where our beloved friend Rick had died.I told Rabbi Tom how cherished you are by all of us who write together. How you teach us to be blessed by Mary Oliver.
“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things I want to be light and frolicsome i want to be improbable beautiful snd afraid of nothing as though i had wings” maryoliver