I would like to feel the joy of writing again.
Ever since I was a child I loved to write. I remember starting my own school newspaper in the 6th grade because I wanted to tell the news of my elementary school.
I went into journalism because of my love of writing. In the 90s there was that brief period where I starting writing poetry. It was a time when I started to tell stories about life in prose. As mysteriously as it came, it mysteriously left and I haven’t written a poem in over 20 years.
In the aughts and teens I spent time blogging on religion and politics. It was during that time period that I started to get noticed and I wrote for some magazines. It wasn’t unusual for me to easily write something on my blog a number of times a day.
This was also a time when I enjoyed writing sermons. Looking back, it felt like the sermons formed easily in my mind and then I was able to just let the words flow. I look back at the sermon manuscripts from that time and I can tell I was incredibly happy.
This isn’t to say that there were barriers to writing. Having ADHD and autism made it difficult to focus on writing and what might take someone an hour my take me twice as long before I got so easily distracted. But even with that challenge, writing was fun.
I so long for those days.
Somewhere along the mid teens and onward, I started to face a number of “setbacks,” people in my life who caused me to doubt myself and my writing. It started with some people accusing me of writing things that embarrassed or hurt others. I can remember asking people to look at my writing to make sure I wasn’t saying things that were truly hurtful, but no one could ever find anything. But it made me less confident in what I wrote. The attacks continued regardless of how careful I was. Each attack made me more and more nervous. Was I saying something hurtful and not even aware of the fact?
My tent making job was no better. I could never reach the standards set by the boss. When you are told that your writing isn’t up to snuff the self doubt can wreak havoc on your writing ability. It was to the point that I just couldn’t write anything. Every word on the screen caused me to second-guess and third-guess. You become paraluyzed because you are fearful you’re going to write the wrong word or phrase.
Then there was the time I wrote something that got another writer’s attention. Actually two writers, who disagreed with what I wrote. That’s not the first time that’s happened, but the criticism ended in somehow questioning my intelligence. After all of the other emotional hits I’ve taken over the years, now I am dealing with the worry that’ I’m not smart enough.
All of this has brought me to this point, where I find it hard to write. The joy that I felt writing sermons has been replaced with dread in writing a sermon. Even when I sit down to write something, I find myself looking for something else to do because when I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I feel this mixture of fear and shame.
It will take time to repair the damage that has been done. All I can do is write and keep writing no matter how hard.
What I wished I had a decade ago were people who could encourage me and support me. Some of that was my fault, because I tend to keep things to myself. But people need to know that they matter. I’m not saying people need to be told they are the greatest, but in world where people can tear you down, people need to know they are valued.
This is not about whether or people have a “gift.” It’s about the joy of doing something and there are people out there that will steal people’s joy. If you see that happening in someone’s life, make sure they know that they matter and that their love of writing matters. Even if they are the worst writer, people need to know they matter.
I pray that joy of writing comes back. It probably will, but it will take time to heal and maybe develop some callouses and claws to fight back when people try to tear you down.
My 50-plus year love of writing will come back and when it does, you damn well better be careful.