There’s A Flaw In My Writing

Virginia Woolf once wrote,

“There is no denying the wild horse in us. To gallop intemperately; fall on the sand tired out; to feel the earth spin… there is no getting over the fact that this desire seizes us pretty often.”

Reading that for the first time, it was like Woolf had reached out across the years and touched a finger to part of me I had never been able to quite reach myself.

That wild horse has been with me for my whole life.

Just about every decision I’ve made, from childhood, has been driven by this need to feel unbridled, to give my creative energy a wide plain to gallop across.

It was there when I started hiding maths reports from my parents in seventh grade, so I could read novels instead of going to algebra tutoring.

It was there when I moved to Thailand, so I could figure out how to make money independently, without having to sit under a flickering fluorescent office light anymore.

It was there when I signed a long-ass lease in a run-down building, just so I could have free reign to create a secret garden in the middle of the city.

I know this about myself — I will always make the decision that leaves me the most freedom, the most room to roam.

This wild horse of mine is extremely territorial, and so I know that everything in my life is there because I have decided it will be so.

But this creates a flaw in my writing.

I hear it every time I sit down to write about my life.

It’s self-congratulatory. Smug.

I sound pleased with myself… because I am. My life is just what I want it to be.

But I don’t like sounding smug, so my writing slows down.

The bridle starts to bite, slows the gallop to a trot.

Visions loom of strangers on the internet rolling their eyes and tweeting snarky put-downs. Or, worse, friends wanting to do the same.

It’s a funny problem, this self-bridling, and I think just about every creative person faces it. It’s censorship, which pushes us back into a corner and stifles our creativity.

And when that happens, we lose more than creative expression.

We lose our ability to connect with other people.

Creativity is the only tool we have to reach out across the void, and reach the unreachable place in someone else.

And so even when the flaws are there, and you can see them all too clearly, you have to keep trying.

You might not even think of yourself as creative. But it’s not about whether you can write or paint or make up cool dance routines.

Creativity is about being generative. It’s about saying yes to the things that unbridle you.

It’s babies, and gardens, and falling in love. It’s letting yourself (and your work) be known, choosing to thrive, getting out of bed when the void is bearing down on you.

This is creativity, and this is what we are all here for.

To generate the gifts that only we can give to the world, and to each other.

So let your wild horse run free. It might be the most smug, territorial, demanding creature you ever encounter, but that horse will carry you to the life you are meant to lead.