A river runs through: breaking the writing seal.
As I sit here and compose this article, I am soothed by the sounds of a rushing river and the hum of unseen insects. A light wind blows delicately through the lush jungle, leading nimble branches to fluidly respond to these gentle nudges. Hammocks lilt, inviting any weary bodies that come in their presence to find respite in their supportive frame. (This is my not-so-subtle endorsement for the coffee region in the country of Colombia, by the way.)
Is this not the perfect environment for a writer to find their inspiration?
Well, if that is true, then why have I spent the last seven days avoiding sitting in front of this computer to discover what wants to be expressed and shared?
Let’s rewind to see if there are any clues on the journey that can help us unpack my resistance. First of all, approximately three months ago, I was whisked on a 30-plus hour trip from the continent of Africa to the small, quaint town I grew up in, which is located among the ample horse farms and cow pastures of Kentucky. I was returning from a year of living and working abroad in the country of Rwanda, a place with a painful history, a promising future, and ample geographic diversity for my adventurous spirit to explore. Living out this experience was an unfulfilled dream of my 18-year-old self, who had tasted international travel in the mountains and jungles of Ecuador, and was hungry for more.
Why is this relevant to understanding my resistance to writing you might ask? Well, I had every intention of blogging about my Rwanda chapter to capture my reflections on what I discovered about the culture, landscape, and how it shaped my perceptions of the world. I told multiple family, friends, and colleagues that it was something they could look forward to reviewing. And yet, my website is still half built, not a word was written on my blog (though many in my personal journal), and my adoring fans (mostly my parents and their friends) were left unsatisfied.
So, my first attempt at writing regularly and sharing it with an audience could be said to be a bit of a flop. And yet, I am not sure if I have regrets. At the time, there was a quiet murmuring in my spirit that I decided to listen to, which said, “Elizabeth, my dear, allow yourself to be fully present with this experience, not always needing to dissect, analyze, and translate. Rwanda is a place that is full of complexity, like most other places on this planet, and it might take you some time to sift and sort through all the inputs. It might be the most honoring thing for both you and this place to actually share your intimate thoughts with a select few, at least at this point. There is always a chance to share with a broader audience later.”
This is also the voice that reminds me when there is a controversial topic that social media seems to demand you take a stance immediately, and it is okay to give yourself time to understand the different perspectives related to that situation, to not need to respond to a false sense of urgency. She seems wise, patient, and spacious.
Meanwhile, I am also haunted by the experiences of writers like Glennon Doyle. If you are not familiar with Glennon Doyle, she became a famous writer after publishing a book, Love Warrior, where she tells the story of how she fought for her marriage after a betrayal, following her faithfully held Christian values. And three years later, she came out with her next book, titled Untamed, where she shares how she realized that leaving her marriage for a deeper love with Abby Wambach and accepting that she is a lesbian was her actual truth.
Talk about some humble pie.
If I were to have written a book in my mid-20s, it would have had a lot of evangelical references to things like needing a savior, putting others before yourself, and not trusting anything outside of the love of Jesus. And if I were to read it now, I would likely cringe. The closest example I have of this is when someone wrote a blog about me in my late 20s that has followed me, and that alone is humbling enough.
Over time, I have found that one of my top values is growth, and as a result, I am committed to being an ever-evolving human who is always letting my curiosity lead me to the next idea or discovery.
I spend seasons trying on different personal development perspectives, spiritual frameworks, or ideological approaches, and like to think of my integration process as a hearty soup where I am constantly evaluating the right mix of ingredients, and learning about new ones I want to throw in the already brimming pot. And yet, as I sit down to write, there is a voice with a straight back that says, “Elizabeth, don’t be so foolish to catalogue your current truth on a public platform. We have worked hard to build a professional reputation, and learned to keep a lot of our personal thoughts and feelings to a select few who have earned our trust. This gives us a lot more grace and room to fluidly move through different ideas without fear of being judged or misunderstood. I think we should keep it that way.” She is a bit proud, rather protective, and often thinks “what if…bad,” especially when it involves vulnerability.
So it is these two voices that joined me, among many others (it can get very busy up there), as I decided to register for the “Write Your Heart Out” course through the Elephant Academy, and set my intention for the month of April to pursue creativity, beauty, and self-expression. That also landed me in the country of Colombia to immerse myself in the art scene and natural beauty to be found in both Medellin and Salento.
A few things that are helping me in the preliminary stages of this course to get past my writing “stage fright.”
First, I do not have to be a wise teacher, which somehow, when I put pen to paper knowing there is an audience, that side of me wants to show up and show out. Instead, I can imagine what I might say to a close friend on Marco Polo, my favorite platform for keeping up with friends as I have embraced a life of geographic diversity (yes, I am looking for endorsement deals).
Second, I can let go of who my writing resonates with and who it doesn’t, and trust that if it comes from my heart, I can’t go wrong.
Third, a key aspect to finding your voice is the writing part, but also the sharing part. And I can accept that there are multiple voices that will probably flow through me, and they might bump up against each other, or rub people the wrong way, and that’s okay too.
So as those rushing waters in my direct view remind me, it’s okay to let it flow. There might be some rocks, some rapids, and no doubt some erosion, but nature has a way of working things out. So it’s official: I have broken the seal and jumped in the raft with both my wise self and my protector self, and I am ready to see what wants to come forth in the weeks and months ahead.