Dear creatives of all sorts, everywhere: be a little kinder to yourself, will ya?
We really can be nasty to ourselves, can’t we? When you’ve staked a good portion of who you are on your creativity, kindness goes out the window far too often.
As a writer I’m here to say something I know to be true about all writers: we are the least kind people in the world – to ourselves. I have talked myself out of my ability a dozen times. I have convinced myself I was a talentless hack who had no right to call herself a writer twice that many times. Worst of all I have let the sound of my own voice berate me even while I’m savoring the glorious freedom of my creativity.
Writers stand as shining examples of how NOT to treat yourself and so my piece will be a self-conscious expose here in the Land of Kind.
Lack of kindness and compassion for oneself is rampant among artists in general, and writers in particular. If you’re a maker, server, crafter or creator then you know what it is to hear that bitchy little voice in your ear telling you that you ‘should’ go more quickly, ‘should’ produce more and ‘should’ be better.
And as if it isn’t bad enough that we hear that voice accompanying every least bit of hesitance…we extend the self-flagellation by adopting that nagging inner critic as our true voice.
In my case, I write memoir. It is sometimes called bleeding on the page, pouring salt in the wound and harnessing yourself to the mast of the Titanic. Memoir in particular, and writing in general, demands a level of vulnerability that lends itself too easily to self-judgment. I would estimate my latest book has taken three times as long as it needed to because of a lack of kindness to myself, my memory and my need to heal. My book is this mother’s chronicle of survival when my family had a grenade tossed into it in the form of a rare disease diagnosis. I became a superhero mother and my son recovered. Getting my story to the world with the intention of offering hope to other parents of chronically or critically-ill children nearly did not happen because I could not quiet the voice that belittled my writing, my efforts and me.
I spend more time encouraging new memoir writers to be kind to their memory, to the creative process and to the story than I do coaching them on description or structure. (I was never able to coach myself through those things by the way.) We are all so conditioned to condemn our memories for not spitting a perfectly formed image of a moment in our history on demand.
We all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. If you’re writing about yourself and your life, as so many of us are for bio’s and About Me pages, we need to show more patience. Treated with some appreciation, tenderness and nourishment, our memory will not let us down.
It’s true none of us remembers things uniformly well.
Some of us remember exact details down to the shade of pink and the name of the berry on the wallpaper of our preschool bedroom. Others only have a skeleton memory of growing up based on milestones like grades at school, birthday cakes, religious holidays or places we lived.
But we have access to these moments in time. We are able to grasp them when the conditions are right – when we extend our self-care to self-kindness and apply it to our writing, our memories and our minds.
Writing is the best tool for mining the minerals of our past. Once the memory is back, and the record of it is made…you feel the inner buzz, that joyful warmth of recognition. Just a little self-kindness and it all comes back with a feel good bonus.