Sarah Lynn typing

How To Write Your Way To Freedom, Even If You’re Not A Writer

There’s a book called Writing to Awaken.

Sounds a little woooooooo right?

What are we awakening from?

Hungover much?

But there is a genius in this book that you wont find many other places. This is what i mean: these cleverly wordsmithed questions take you into what Carl Jung called the shadow or unknown dark side of the personality.

HOW DO I UNLOCK MY CREATIVITY?

i’ve always struggeled with creativity. Like most kids, I was encouraged to be creative.

“Express-O Yourself” – Mr. Oneil

In the last few years (age 9 – 12) that I was creative I made drawings of professional athletes — since I watched so much sports and listened to talk radio back then. I also imagined elaborate stories, involving the little media I was exposed to.

At this age it was pretty much just Darkwing Duck and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I even did a little role play of characters from the Street Fighter arcade games with other kids in school or the neighborhood. None of us really knowing how we should pronounce the commands that unleashed (blue?) fireballs and leaping uppercuts.

Then one day it just didn’t appeal to me anymore. There was no conversation about this. My sense is that I was the one who was judging my “talent” for this kind of expression. In the absence of actual feedback, I filled in the gaps. Sure I had some evidence but it was mostly the beliefs I’ve been carrying in my head.

So what was the evidence?

My mom wanted me in music so I practiced a clarinet, which I didn’t like. The few rehearsals I made it to… I hated even more.

“Hate, Hate, Hate” – Chant of every player hater that ever existed

I was hyper critical of everything I tried. All creative work requires us to come from a secure emotional place in the body, we have to feel it. We have this ability to make things AND we also have the need to determine meaning from everything we do. So I merely made the wrong conclusion about my creatively. This is the norm for many of us because it’s hard not to think in terms of good or bad.

Michele Cassou recommends not to criticize a child’s art but also warns to not praise it either. In her view, this causes us to fixate on why someone liked or didn’t like our art, which blocks natural free expression. This is where self censorship begins. This is where we feel unsafe.

We may know that everything is neutral… but it doesn’t always feel that way does it?

WHY IS HONESTY IMPORTANT IN WRITING?

After spending three years trying several journaling methods, this is what I’ve learned: until we’re brutally honest about ourselves on paper (or to another person) our growth as a human is limited. This is scary to admit since we all know the death grip our stories can have over our perspective. We’ve heard the stories over and over again. The grooves have been burned in by the synapses in our brain.

“I’m just gonna keep writing I got a lot of synapses firing right now.” – Sarah Lynn

Soooooooo what was I missing?

Creativity can’t be judged, craft can be judged but that happens further along in the process.

Getting practice creating just for the sake of it with no expectation that your words, images and sounds should come out a certain way is the goal.

The first time you try, it will be hard to not judge. After all, aren’t we exposed to a lot of talented work in the real world? ZOMG THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL, I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!

Yeeeeees, but we never get to see the exact process that artists use — so we ascribe some kind of genius to them.

What the fuck does any of this have to do with this book?

Well for starters this is not a novel, its a work book. You will mostly be writing about your candid thoughts about DEEP personal questions.

So what’s the big deal right? We all have secrets, desires and stories we tell ourselves. It’s not like we’re deluding ourselves… right?

….right?

I used to think the same thing. I was already journaling off an on for 3 years before I was recommended this book.

You’ll notice early on how great some of these questions are. They will take you to some places either you’ve either never been or at haven’t been for a long time.

While writing these responses a curious thing happened: I wrote more than I’ve ever wrote before.

By the end of a several day writing binge (ummm, hey covid… thanks?) I was looking at a text document of +30k words, roughly a third of a typical novel. With most long form writing I’ve tried before — I could only get to several thousand words before doubts would push me to find some shiner distraction.

Then… during the 2nd or 3rd day doing this practice I felt something shift internally.

Towards the end of the day I was like hmmmmm, you know I seem to have slept a little better and have been way less hungry than usual. But I’ve had feelings like that temporarily before so I didn’t pay it much mind. Then a few weeks passed. And I felt resilient, not only that but the chronic hunger I’ve been dealing with for about 30 years (which I never even knew could be removed) was still gone. I rode that high for a while.

Were there other benefits?

Yes. A lot of my resistance to writing is gone. As someone who was blocked creatively for so long it’s still weird to think of those problems as something in the past.

I’ve spent parts of the last six years reading blog posts, buying courses, networking with indie creatives (mostly writers and life coaches). After a while, I started noticing patterns in the most common advise. If you do enough searches you’ll find similar trends. You’ll see stuff about imposter syndrome, the different phases of creativity, the habits of artists, affirmations and positive thinking.

Some of this advise is really helpful. But it depends on so much. Sometimes we have bigger, or more fundamental problems to solve. Once we do that work, the “obstacles” we face — aren’t so bad. They go from being overwhelming AF to… Hey, I could do that.

I always wondered why I had this recurring vision or fantasy: I’m in front a group of people expressing or performing something. The group changes depending on where I’m going to school or working at that time in my life. I can feel (but not see myself moving) the performance.

But…

There is no reaction from the audience.

None. Time is stopped. I try to look at the faces, but there’s no positive or negative reaction, just intently watching.

For a while I was searching for a literal explanation why but it may have been more metaphorical. As dreams are. The answer for me is freedom.

There is something radical about truth telling that will get your emotions moving. You feel more free and more safe. And it’s not like you sent a mass email or group text to your friends and family revealing every personal detail of your life.

Can I garantee anyone reading this will be able to replicate my exact experience? Of course not.

I’m still processing how this change will lead to many other changes. The best part (especially for us introverts) is you don’t need to take someone you care about and put them through the emotional wringer just to process your full self honestly.

You can do the deep inner work and grieve for that loss. Any big change necessitates that there will be something you’ll need to let go of — that’s how sadness works.

Is there a burden in your life?

Could getting all your stories, secrets and sources of shame on paper (or text file) really change you too?

Maybe.

I mean, a book is a small investment.

Sure there are books with clever lines that make you think: oh I never thought of it that way but…

How many of those clever words of phrase are literally life changing in a sustainable way?

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on creativity or working your way through Writing to Awaken. It’s intense!

*Hat tip to Lauren Sapala for the book recommendation.

Tristan Donofrio is a writer who coaches creatives and aspiring creatives to make progress on unleashing your creative force in the world. Create art and create your vision of change in your life. Free ebook "Unmindfuck Your Creativity" for all new subscribers!