My Writing Shadow
These wild violets in my yard remind me of the surprising beauty that unfolds when I let go and allow nature to do its good work. A book called The Shadow Effect reinforces the same idea with human nature.
Yesterday, my first day after the semester ended, should have been a great day. It should have been time to relax, get back on track with my writing, putter around the house, work on home projects.
Instead I had a stressful morning. Even though I am not a fan of public speaking, and even though I really wanted to sink gratefully into my first day of vacation, I’d agreed to sit on a panel of writers talking to 8th graders. The lone fiction writer/teacher on the panel, I was there to balance out the newspaper journalists and magazine freelancers.
Well, I was supposed to be there.
Except I got the time and location wrong and ended up being really late. By the time I got there, the event was almost over. I am never late. With anything. I pride msyelf on never missing a deadline and never keeping anybody waiting. Also when I do rouse myself to speak in public, I like to look like a pulled-together professional, not a disorganized ditz.
I knew, in that moment when I realized I was going to be really late, that I had to drop my pride. I had to ride out events as they unfolded. So I arrived, apologized to my peers, made a joke to the kids, and did my bit. It went okay, because I was able to stop beating myself up, stop wondering if I was getting early-onset Alzheimer’s, and deal with what was needed in the present moment.
But after the event, I wondered if the episode was trying to tell me more than “let go of pride, the need to control, the need to appear professional.” Because it was so unusual for me, I wondered if there was something else my shadow self, the disowned part of me, was trying to say.
And so I went to the craft store and wandered the aisles, indulging my inner artist. Which is when I sort of got my shadow’s deeper message. Sometimes a writer needs to say NO. Sometimes a writer has to be selfish in order to fulfill her deepest desires, like finishing the book.
Saying no, being selfish with my time, does not come easy to me. I like to see myself as a generous and giving person. And yet…in order to write, I need to be selfish.
The shadow is insidious (I still can’t believe I got both the time AND location wrong.) but it can also be a great teacher. My shadow was pissed and wanted my attention. The shadow will do that. It will sabotage things unless you pay attention to its demands, which really are in our own best interest.
What the shadow is really saying is “Own me; use me to your benefit.” In my case, that means owning the selfishness that allows me to get some writing done.