Let the words freely come
And edit less, actually
Hello, my friend!
The past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about what to do when words fall short. In the midst of the passing of a friend and the upcoming wedding of another, I’ve been overwhelmed by the pressure of using my words, and experiencing how I’ve failed at this repeatedly in some of my closest friendships and even just in the past few weeks.
I’ve always viewed writing as a tool that helped me process. In the grief and confusion of a breakup, writing helped me cope. In work discussions, writing helps me clarify my intentions and feel productive. In my personal time, writing helps me remember my values, habits that I wanted to grow, and memories I don’t want to forget.
In my friend’s passing, however, writing felt disconnected, disingenuous, and not enough. I wasn’t ready for the service. I didn’t feel like it was my best work or delivery. I hated how words seemed to fall short of what I wanted them to mean. And I hated that even in times of grief, my inner critic pressured me to grieve in a specific way, pressuring myself to represent and remember her well, as if her life was dependent on how others could recall it. It’s exhausting to please an inner critic with unreasonable expectations, and I’ve been growing my muscle of showing more compassion to myself. In the last few weeks, silence has taken on a new, more sober meaning with the absence of words.
As I prepare to speak again, where my testimony and words have the privilege of another’s time, I’m dwelling on my immense privilege in light of my imposter syndrome. I’m trying to focus on my love in writing, rather than performance. I think of what my friend Shelley would advise me to do. To be friends with someone who struck the balance of working diligently toward excellence, yet somehow seamlessly paired this work ethic with grace and compassion toward herself, I’m in amazement of her ability to bridge across the grey and desire to view the world with all its complexities, too.
Today’s tip is to avoid editing yourself before you’re ready.
As I’ve drafted variations of my newsletter, I find myself trying to use my “writing voice”, which ends up being this longwinded, boring version of myself that sounds like I’m trying to sound like a writer. Eww. It’s especially detrimental because it takes all the personality out of what I’m doing, and I find myself trying to fit the mold of what I think a writer should be.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been periodically rubbing up against the “should’s” in my life—I’ve been driven by should, formed some of my habits by should, volunteered because of should, and it’s so ingrained in me that it’s led to paralyzing indecision when it comes to my career, extreme pressure in dating, a legalistic faith, and a regimented mindset toward daily work that really just sucks the fun out of life.
So whatever you’re writing, try to speak to a friend, one that sees the very best parts of your personality and will miss your laughter if it’s one day gone. Don’t edit yourself—or your writing—to fit what you think someone else wants. Chances are it will incredibly bore them. Present yourself fully, and include the weird, funky parts, because real people are messy, even within constraints, and that’s what’s wonderful about people: messy, broken, but when redeemed, all the more beautiful.