Rachel Vail’s “Permission not to have to be Mozart” really resounds for me. I have wrestled with the myth that, to write and let you read it, my thinking has to be fully mature, complete, finished—and that five years from now, I’d agree 100% with what I wrote. There is something daunting about the permanence of the written word. A phone call fades, even e-mail is more likely to be deleted than not. But a written note can be taken out and read over and over again, over time. And it continues to speak from the person who wrote it—who I might not be in five years.
Annie G. Rogers, when talking about writing her memoir book, A Shining Affliction: Tales of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy, said that one of the most difficult tasks in the writing was to go back to the person she was when she was experiencing this, and write from that voice. That’s one thing, memoirs. Somehow, change in that genre is expected.
But, for me anyway, I have had to work at giving myself permission to grow in my writing. To begin with a piece that I know I will be able to improve on someday, but let it be read, let it go. I struggle with this concept in writing this book. Roni Natov, a professor at Union Institute
& University, told me, “Just do your best writing. It will change. You are still learning and will always be.” That helped.
Then I thought about the other arts—specifically, looking at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. Her early pieces, in black and white, are very clearly early efforts with seeds of her later brilliance. Put an early sketch next to a wondrous oil from the end of her career and step back. I can only have admiration for where she began, and where she concluded.
So, I foster my courage and court inspiration by tucking an early O’Keeffe near my keyboard. And give myself permission to grow.