For the Sake of Personal Expansion

An invitation to return to the blank page

Jun 25, 2024

Creative Writing Creative Process Growth Art Creativity
green typewriter on table

Photo by Markus Winkler

It was when I started dusting the living room blinds that it really became apparent. I had been engaging in avoidance behavior for weeks but never really called it out as that; I was simply being productive, getting things done. But when dusting entered the picture, my least favorite house chore, I couldn’t deny it any longer—I was seriously avoiding writing.

I should know better by now, I tell myself. I have been at this dance for more than 15 years now, going back and forth between facing the blank page and avoiding it. Showing up for the craft and running far, far away from it. I should have my dodging tactics memorized at this point, knowing exactly the schemes I engage in when I’m in full-out resistance mode. From shopping too much, to suddenly having the urge to complete my entire to-do list, especially the pesky tasks I’ve been pushing to the bottom of the list week after week. Not to mention the moodiness, the funky cloud I start carrying over my shoulder, the crabby attitude toward my loved ones.

The signs are all there in front of me, so how do I fall for them every. single. time?

Why do I not catch myself sooner, before I’ve overspent, annoyed my husband, and resented myself for being undisciplined? Oh yes, I haven’t mentioned the subtle self-hatred that so mischievously accompanies this phase. The feeling of having failed, yet again. All the times I have shown up and created, all the finished pieces I put out, lose their significance and no longer matter. What stands out and takes centerstage is the present moment in which I am not showing up.

Writing has a hold on me I can’t explain. Much like an athlete who keeps getting up even after being beat down repeatedly. This brings to mind Theodore Roosevelt’s powerful quote from his 1910 “Man in the Arena” speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; …who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

I don’t know why I avoid, but I have a few guesses… maybe at times it’s laziness, at other times the lack of desire to go in depth as one must in the process of writing. Or perhaps it’s because it doesn’t offer the instant gratification of an impulse buy or clean floors. It is, after all, a practice. And any practice requires discipline, consistency, attention, and time. The practice of sitting down to write is not unlike any other spiritual or physical practice. One cannot expect quick results.

And don’t we all want that? The most output for the least amount of input. If there is a faster way to do something, we want to know about it. Shortcuts, timesaving methods, shortened routines—sign us up. With all the ways we can speed up living, it’s no wonder we’ve lost the ability to practice stillness, to be in the moment. Our feet are not grounded underneath us; they are already stepping into tomorrow.

The act of writing is teaching me, over and over again, to slow down, be still, and remain present. Sometimes against my will. I am learning to commit to my calling once again and see it through. These are lessons I need to learn frequently, ones I avoid like the plague. We run from the lessons we need to learn the most. Why? Because they are the hardest for us to grapple with. Because they will ask us to sacrifice something along the way. But alas, we will be better versions of ourselves for having learned them.

There is a glorious you that wants to come forth, but it is trapped behind chains made of resistance.

Resistance to healing, to love, to being brave, being seen. Our showing up is the antidote to this resistance. Showing up for our art, our people, our redemption story. Doing what we need to do for the mending of our broken hearts. Anything designed to grow us will undoubtedly come with discomfort, sometimes tolerable, other times unbearable. We have to choose, again and again, whether we want to walk in the direction of growth or stay on the path of least resistance.

Today, I choose growth. I choose my art. Today, I’m deciding to forego instant gratification for the pleasure of creating for creating’s sake. I am willing to stay in the mud of the creative process and sink my boots in. My writer self is open to learning whatever it is I am meant to learn. Even if it means the dirty dishes will stay in the sink overnight.

What will you forego today for the sake of your personal expansion?

What practice will you commit to in order to stay on the path that leads to the “fearfully and wonderfully made" person God created you to be (Psalm 139:14)? I have said it a thousand times and I will say it again—

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

~ Howard Thurman

May we all find the courage and perseverance to avoid less and show up more for the things that we care about. May the song of our muse be louder than the distractions of the world. The invitation to return to the blank page, whatever that may look like for you, is always there. We just have to make the choice to accept it. The blinds can wait, let’s sit down and make beautiful things.