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Relearning my own Voice

The most common analogy I've used for my writing difficulties has been that a dragon stole my voice - if you've been following my blog for a while, you'll have seen those references in a lot of my earlier posts. It was initially lost when I buried myself in "productivity" during my years as a Junior High teacher. Somewhere in the process of settling into that career path, I began to believe that self-expression wasn't necessary, that play was superfluous and frivolous, and that I needed to put such things away. Eventually, that mentality led to my burnout as a teacher, a re-evaluation of my personal values, and the choice to go back for my master's degree and pursue counselling psychology instead. I love educating people, I love watching the light in their eyes when deeper understanding and awareness dawns, and now I get to do it in a more personally impactful way with individuals.

In August 2020, I spent a weekend in solitary retreat at a spiritual retreat centre. My goal was to reconnect with my writer-self, and I intentionally took my old notebooks and journals and pens and a few books to read and zero electronics except my phone. As I paged through my old writing notebooks with their stories and ideas and plot outlines, I felt like I was rummaging through the estate of a deceased writer. The words on the page were familiar, but they didn't feel like mine. During that retreat time, I was successful in assessing the "damages" done by my withdrawal from my writing-self and in beginning to build up that relationship again. But it wasn't magic. I still needed to put in the work to regain my voice. And so the self-discipline began.

Over the past year or so I've managed to successfully create rhythm in my regular writing practice, regaining functional skill by writing in this blog with increasing consistency and adding a second blog (for our clinic at work, which you can find here). But I've also felt extra frustrated, stymied in my attempts to get my writing voice back. No matter how consistent or authentic or real I've been able to be in my blog, progress on my book has remained at a stand-still. I'm nearly finished the plot outline, and have been for more than a year, but haven't been able to write out any of the scenes.

This past weekend I met up with my irl writing friends, and at some point the conversation turned to how frustrated and stuck I've felt. They reminded me of three things:

1. Life's involved a lot of stressful and pressured management-of-things for a number of years; of course I can expect to be struggling with creativity.

2. My voice is going to sound different than it used to because I'm a different person now that who I used to be.

3. I need to let myself play, have a break, and stop forcing myself to dig into deep, meaningful, or heavy things with my writing. My life is so full of deep, meaningful, and heavy things that I could very well be a little out of balance - which I think is true.

I love meaningful things. I love to dig in and figure out the why behind what's happened because it gives understanding to the painful events of life and highlights the beauty of human striving and hope in the middle of misery. This is part of why I love my job as a counselling psychologist so much - I get to help people find that hope and discover their own tenacity. But spending so much time face-to-face with human striving means I'm not spending enough time just playing and exploring and having fun.

Knowing how to play is difficult for me and forcing myself to act on a playful plan is even more difficult. Every time I try, I turn my play into an opportunity to dig into my personal growth or create a meaningful experience for someone else.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with my short story, Aspen Road's Finest Mystery, but it's the story of a little-girl "detective" who is so thouroughly involved in her world of play that she successfully navigates real-life grief by processing the emotion through the lens of her make-believe detective work. She's an emotionally, psychologically, and developmentally healthy 8-year old. I need to be more like her. Recently I had a new idea for her story, and now I'm thinking that might not be coincidence.

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