My first writing gig was an OP/ED column called ’30-Something Scribbles’ for a local news outlet. The owner/editor was a good friend of mine who graciously took me under her wing in order to give me an opportunity to hone my skills. Every few weeks, I would come up with a piece that I thought people would like, send it off to her for feedback and edits, and up it would go – out into the Universe and free for all to read.
This process was always equal parts terrifying and exciting for me and even though my friend reassured me that she would never publish something that sucked to a website that was also her livelihood, I wasn’t convinced. She was my friend, after all, and I was somewhat suspicious that she just didn’t have the heart to tell me that my writing wasn’t that good.
It’s not that I didn’t trust her … in all reality, I didn’t trust myself.
Any opinion I had of my work hinged solely on what others thought of it first. Any pride or fulfillment I felt from my writing was null and void until verified by others, preferably a stranger (you can always trust an internet stranger to be honest with you, brutally so at times). I trusted the viewpoint of others far beyond my own, even when it came to determining how I felt about myself.
My writing has grown a lot over the years, as has my confidence, but it wasn’t until recently that I dropped the habit of asking people for feedback on my writing prior to publishing.
Now, let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with having a second set of eyes look over your work prior to release. We have editors for a reason and they are brilliant, necessary fixtures in the writing world. However, grammatical errors and sentence structure were not the only reasons I was sending my writing off to trusted friends … what I was really looking for was approval. I was looking for affirmation.
“Let me know what you think!“, was code for “Please tell me you like this because I really do!”
I hadn’t yet begun to trust my own knowing. That inner feeling inside of all of us that says “Yes!“, or “No”, or even “Meh. I’m not sure yet.” if things still seem unclear.
Whether I’m seeking clarity on my writing, feeling confused about a conflict with a loved one, or making a big life decision – that place deep inside my gut knows. It always has, it just took me 35 years to start listening to it.
Learning to tune into myself and trust what I feel has been a bumpy road to say the least. It’s uncomfortable to rely on your own knowing at first, especially when you have spent the last few decades convinced that it is not to be trusted. Just like anything new, it takes practice.
It was the ‘getting quiet and tuning in’ part that was the hardest for me. In order to access your knowing, you need to get quiet, and stepping away from my beloved distractions and just ‘being’ with my feelings made me feel itchy and squirmy inside. I have ADD, anxiety, and have been using dissociation as a coping skill for as long as I can remember so being in my own skin, willingly, was not something I was used to. But what I did find was, as soon as I got past the itchy, squirmy feeling, the quiet was kind of nice – like settling into savasana at the end of a yoga class.
Now, this quiet place inside of me is where I go to check in for everything. Whether it is a parenting decision, an issue at work, or a blog I am writing, I can always find the answer there. I just need to get quiet enough to hear it.
I still love getting feedback on my writing, just as any artist likes getting feedback on their work. And of course, positive response feels good. It is supposed to. But the difference now is that I trust myself first. Turning inward is my default. And as it turns out, that feels better than external validation any day of the week.