The last two days I wrote an essay for admittance to the next course in my Druidry training. I’ve been in the prerequisite course for the last two years, and the essay is a recap of that course. It’s experiential, so the essay doesn’t have right or wrong answers.
I’ve never been that great about writing to others authentically, meaning with emotion and personal perspective, about my personal experiences. It’s been a challenge, and no matter in the past how much I’ve poured out on the page, I had not hit that threshold of the deeply personal and intimate. I used to write police reports, and I spent so long trying to articulate the objective and rational, I beat out of myself the ability to write how I feel and how things affect me.
Another problem is I hold back. I worry about judgement and fear exclusion for what I think and feel. I’ve known for a while I can’t do that with creative writing. It’s sabotage. As I’ve gone through this course, as I’ve written poetry and read other writer’s works, I’ve looked for signs of writing which effectively draw out the author as a real human.
With this admissions essay, I think I finally achieved it, if for only one example. My partner Erica, after she read it, said it’s the first piece of writing that feels like me, even saying her reaction was “Yeah, this is him.” Then we talked about what she thought differentiated yesterday’s essay from other writing.
Erica said I usually write fast. I write fast, publish fast, and move on to the next thing. She doesn’t think this gives me adequate time to deeply feel, or realize my feelings enough to effectively articulate them. She said writing an essay that was essentially two years in the making gave me enough time to expand my feelings to writing.
I see it, and agree with it. I also don’t want every effective work of writing I make in the future take a couple of years.
Another friend who hadn’t read the essay asked me about it this morning. She’s taking the same course, and her own essay will be coming up in the next few months. She is worried about how long it needs to be.
I give better advice to others than I do myself. This is some of what I shared with her:
“If there is one piece of advice I might have: don’t hold back. Our advisors have seen many of these, and have been there themselves. I wasn’t sure how mine would respond if I fully opened up to him. Part of it I wondered if he would think I’m crazy.
I kept in mind as I wrote how much I worked for this. How much I learned, grew, and changed. Giving myself a break after finishing, I also thought about how much I wanted to move forward. To honor myself, my work, and my intentions, I put my whole heart into it, 100%. I haven’t done that often in my life. I’ve always held back, pulled punches, and tried to soften blows. I’m intense, and I hit hard. I’ve always been afraid of myself a bit. That fear sometimes holds me back from seeing what I can do.
Yet if you’re standing at the gates of somewhere you’ve worked hard to be ready for; if you feel you’re experienced and ready and put your heart into it; there’s no other way than to give it your all. So when you write your application, speak your truth, give it your heart. Tell them what you did and what it meant. Don’t hold back. The length doesn’t matter. The power you put into it does.”
Today, between those two conversations, I’m reflecting on the advice in front of me.
- Honor and take time with your feelings when writing. Don’t just grab the Who, What, When, Where, and How and go. Our feelings give us our Why, and sometimes they don’t make any sense. They don’t have to make any sense to anyone else but us. Yet, when we have the courage to put them out there, they may resonate with others, and that’s what forms meaningful connection with readers. To put feelings out there effectively, you should have a fair understanding of your own, and that takes time and mindful work.
- Be open and honest; intimate. Don’t hold back. It’s natural to want acceptance, to fear rejection or judgement. Fear is a great emotion – it warns us of danger, it can help us make better decisions. If I want to write authentically and intimately in a way that can connect emotionally with others, I have to overcome the fear that I will be judged, rejected, or shamed. What are you willing to risk to connect deeply with others? To be understood? To have someone respond to you and say “I feel this too!”? Those are the potential rewards if you can work past the fear.
- Remember your motivation and be passionate about it. For this essay, I had a clear goal I wanted to accomplish, to move to the next course. I felt that passion while writing, when making the decisions on what I would say. That motivation influenced how much of my emotion and self I put into it, meaning to say, all of it! The lesson I’m taking with me to the other projects is to remind myself of and cultivate my motivation and passion.
- Make yourself your first audience: Write like it’s your journal. Since this was an essay about a course I had taken over the last two years, I had a journal with my thoughts and observations. This journal was just for myself, so the things I wrote in it were my most intimate feelings. Writing the essay, I transcribed a few parts of the journal – a couple of poems, some off-hand writing. Easily, these are the most intimate parts of the essay. We don’t always have the benefit of having two years of intimate writing behind us, but we can turn whatever project we’re working on into our own private journal, at least for a time. However, doing this means you first have to be able to be completely honest and open with yourself, and that is a complete other topic for another time.
I expected to wait up to a month for a response to my essay. Surprisingly, I got a response within a few hours; I’ve been recommended to proceed! I feel like the emotional work I did for this course and essay was key to the response it received.
I still have a lot of work to do in this space, but I feel like I’ve reached a new level. I’m going to continue reflecting on the advice I received and gave. There are points there which can be refined and improved, but for today, it’s real and raw, where I am now, and that’s enough.