Shaun Levin

Honesty, Bravery, Ecstasy

In Writing on January 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

What does the new year mean? New yearz meanz rezolutionz. I don’t like resolutions; they make me want to break them. I hate being told what to do, even if it’s me doing the telling. In some ways this blog has been a failure. I set out to write twenty minutes a day and for a short while I did and because things were going well I felt like it was okay to share what I was doing with others. But then… as soon as I knew people were watching, I stopped. I became self-conscious. I tried to remain honest to what I was thinking and to what I was feeling about writing and writing workshops and the writing life, but it just wasn’t the same. This is not about the precariousness of any writing project, because I know that already. I know that on some level when you show your writing to others during the process you are sacrificing something. The end product can never be the same as the book or story you would have written alone in your room without an audience or even thoughts of an audience.

What this is about, for me, is how difficult I find it to write honestly when I know someone is going to read it. The blog showed me this, but also the four essays I was recently commissioned to write. I was happy with the outcome, but they would have been completely different things if I had taken my time with them, if I had let them come into being at their own pace. I also felt that I was writing for someone, rather than completely for myself, and that changed the writing. Now, as I write this, I think, well, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. I did get four essays done in as many months. Those essays would “naturally” and “organically” have taken a couple of years to write, and probably one or two of them – admit it, maybe even all – would have been abandoned, or left unfinished until, as they say, my dying day.

The only time I ever finished a book in a short time was when I was part of a professional supervision group, when I committed to finishing it within a certain timeframe, and agreed on a reward from the group. They were waiting for me to complete the project. I believe they cared. I wanted to finish it. They wanted me to finish it. So I did.

The challenge for me in 2012 will be to write honestly even while being watched, even if it’s only one or two people, because really, those people are just the “people” in my head, the voices that criticise and yawn and wag their fingers and raise their eyebrows and roll their eyeballs, and all the various things parents, teachers, peers and strangers do to others – okay, to me, yes, to me – when we show them the things we are most proud of, when we say the things we like to say, when we behave in ways that feel good and authentic and joyful.

I want to make 2012 a year of honesty, a year of a joyful approach to writing. And because I like things in threes… that’s 1) honesty, 2) joy, and 3) let number three be courage.

  1. This chimes with my experience on the MA – especially re writing to deadlines with my work fully exposed to the group. I’ve learned a lot, about my writing and myself.

    I think I’ll steal your rezolution for 2012.

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