we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.”
~ Cynthia Ozick
It can be a curse to have a thin skin. For a writer, it is deadly. If you need to be liked by all the people all of the time, writing is impossible. Too often I find myself wrestling with my need to be liked and my need to write honestly.
In The Courage To Write, Ralph Keyes says, “If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.” Lately I’ve been scared to death, afraid of exposing too much of my private life and afraid of hurting people through my writing. The result has been a big fat case of writer’s block, not what Keyes had in mind.
To do a decent job blogging you’ve got to take the risk to put yourself out there. To be a good psychologist, you give people hope by saying, “Yes, I’ve been there,” disclosing just enough of your story to connect with theirs, while keeping good boundaries. I’m a psychologist blogger so I try to do both, walking the tight rope without ever betraying my patients’ confidence or privacy.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t hurt people in the process, family and friends in particular. When that happens I wish someone would just shoot me with a tranquilizer gun like they used on the elephants in Wild Kingdom. The guilt is that overwhelming. Anyone who writes publicly about life (and isn’t a complete narcissistic jerk) knows what I’m talking about.
Personal apologies will be made to those I know I’ve hurt with the hope of forgiveness and if not that, understanding, and if not that, an agreement to live and let live. To say I will never hurt anyone ever again would be an empty promise because I am human and a writer and I can’t stop being either.
Now I get what Keyes was saying. He may as well say, “If you’re not scared, you’re not living,” or “If you’re not scared, you’re not in love.” The shame isn’t in being scared. It’s in letting the fear stop you.
This video by Therese Borchard, of Beyond Blue, helped me get off the writer’s block, see my way through the guilt and start writing again.
Gotta say, I needed that today. Thanks for blogging about this. Guilt is not a fun thing to deal with… and as the perfectionist I am, I deal with it a lot. So thank you for posting this and that video. I feel lighter already.
Thanks for posting both the written word and the video. So often we try to do the right thing but it quickly gets overshadowed when we fall short of perfection.
It seems to me that the people who I enjoy being with the most are those that are the most genuine in who they are and what they think. No, its not an excuse to be rude, short, or cross with anyone but I think that we all like “real people” imperfect or not.
In Frank Herberts Science Fiction book “Dune” there is a line that gets repeated over and over again that says “Fear is the mind killer… I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” It just seems so true.
Thanks for being honest with us Dr. Aletta. Its good to know that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes. I hope that whoever you offended will remember that as well.
Thank you for writing and including the video. I feel guilt a lot and more important I am glad you are over your writers block because I enjoy reading your posts.
Natalie, Steve & SD,
Your comments are more stimulating than a stiff drink! Thanks so much!