Iíve been drowning in a sea of duty and I have no one to blame but myself. It was I who chose to listen to the internal censors, those small but insistent voices that said, "You canít write that, what would your family think?" or "You canít say that, your husband and children would be so embarrassed."
It started innocently enough, when I was in my teens and early twenties, dabbling with writing. It was the typical angst ridden, unrequited love material that most of us teethe ourselves on when we first try to harness our emotions and creativity onto one pathway. I hid the poetry and "true romances" in a shoe box in the corner of my closet. My dreams and desires, my hopes and needs, were in that box. My heart and soul were laid bare upon those pages. I was determined to keep my inner self a secret. An inner voice told me it was no one's business how I felt about anything, even if by some magic they could understand.
Each time I felt depressed or insecure I would take the box down and, depending on my mood, either console myself with the depth and breadth of my artistry, or deride myself for writing such dribble and drool. But I never threw my work away, instinctively valuing a deep, almost primitive connection to it. Mostly I would add a line here and there, revise a stanza, correct an error in spelling or punctuation, or tuck a new creation into the box. But I would always replace that ribbon tied box to its clandestine corner in the closet.
When I married, it became worse. Although my husband never discouraged me from whatever I was into at the time, I became self- conscious and uncomfortable about my burning desire to write. I felt writing was too self-indulgent for marriage, so I channeled my creative energies into more acceptable activities. My guilt persuaded me I needed to learn to be dutiful, more mature and responsible, so I tried more practical pursuits such as gardening, sewing, interior decorating, and tole-painting. When none of those proved successful or satisfying, I traded artistic endeavors for social and political activities. I joined committees, ran for local government, and volunteered untold hours with church and service organizations.
I tried to numb my real desires with extreme busyness. I ignored the fact that each time I was asked to write a report, submit an article, or contribute an opinion to a newsletter, I was at my happiest.I would spend untold hours revising even the most mundane of reports, because the finished results would often bring me an inner reward. If I did entertain the thought of writing a short story or essay, I would immediately feel the impulse suppressed by the voices of reason and more practical concerns.
The inhibiting voices became strongest when I had my children. The inner censors convinced me that I didnít have time to write. Why would I want to sit at a computer screen when I already had so much to do? I had PTA and Sunday school committments. I had cooking, cleaning, laundry, and chauffeuring. I had homework to correct and playgroups to organize. Besides, the voice whispered, I had so many other outlets to exercise my creative passions. There were stories to read and act out, make-believe games and fantasies to create, and pretend adventures to be invented. There were ballets to dance and piano duets to play. I was having fun being creative with my children, so, again, I put aside my desire to write.
As my children grew older I began to mold myself to their expectations of who and what I should be. No longer could I dance around the room singing show tunes, or spout out poetry while punctuating every line with exaggerated facial and hand gestures. No longer could I be "silly" in front of my children or their friends. The wondrous giggles of "Oh,Mom," changed to the exasperated sighs of "Ohhhh, Mommmm!" They wanted a mother like their friendsí mothers; wise, sedate, responsible, and normal. I began to watch everything I did or said so as not to humiliate my kids in front of their peers. The transformation not only affected my outward actions but also my thinking. The fire and excitement of creativity cooled to mere embers.
It was only when my children reached high school age that I began to realize that I had done myself--and them--a great disservice. I saw that I was not true to myself. Writing, like all creative endeavors is an external manifestation of an inward fire. Itís like purposely willing oneself not to blink, or scratch an itch, or breathe. It is a part of oneís nature; innate and irresistible. I was teaching my children to stifle, or worse, deny the real essence of themselves.
They now have their own diaries and shoe boxes full of poems and letters and romance stories hidden away in secret places. Now when I take precious time to write, I no longer see the bafflement in their eyes. I see a kind of knowing and acceptance. I see a silent camaraderie. I see the understanding that the heart needs to express itself.
I still, on occasion, hear the voices. There is still a part of me that is nudged and prodded by my own inner censor. I continue to wonder how someone will be affected by what I write. I find myself throwing away story ideas and plots and dialogue because of what I anticipate others will say or feel. But itís getting better. Each day, the combustive spark to create becomes stronger and more powerful, while the blast of inhibitions becomes weaker and less insistent. One day soon, I wonít heed the inner censor anymore and will give voice to my rekindled creativity instead.
Gail Woods Thompson is an aspiring Renaissance Woman. Being the daughter of one, then wife to another career military man, Gail has enjoyed the opportunity to see all parts of this country.
"After 30 moves, I am looking forward to finally settling down in front of my computer screen to write about all the interesting places and intriguing people I have discovered along the way."
This free-lance writer has been published in e-zine magazines, as well as accepted for publication in print anthology collections. She spends her free time reading, singing with community choruses, volunteering in her community, and perfecting gourmet recipes that even her family will eat. When not in front of the keyboard or stove, she studies writing with the LongRidge Writers Group.
Contact Gail at Gailsong@aol.com
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