What’s Holding You Back?

March 28th, 2009

I started writing Morning Pages this week after a long absence, because as an editor, my first instinct is to edit myself as I write instead of letting the ideas flow unchecked and unjudged. I don’t use a journal for Morning Pages, only legal pads, because I don’t want it to seem formal or finished. It’s my version of homework. Someday I’ll go back and circle any sentences or phrases that I might use in essays, but for now it’s just three pages of freeflow thoughts/gibberish/worries/fears every morning. Eventually, a nugget of important information sometimes emerges. What rose to the surface today is that my life feels painfully fenced in. By my job, which used to be a passion and has now evolved into a boring marriage between parties who have nothing in common. By my writing, which has become a chore because I feel as if I should be trying to writing a book and maybe–gasp!–I don’t really want to. Or at least not the kind of book other people want me to write. By the predictability of my days. Not that I want a tornado to touch down in my yard in order to shake up my life, but I would like to stir up a creative tornado to blow down the fears and laziness that keep me immobilized. I’m going to try and hang some lights on that fence to remind me that I’m lucky I recognize I need to change, lucky I didn’t become so accustomed to this comfortable little cage of home/work/tv/bed that I failed to see it could become a prison. But when I try and think of ways to stage a break-out, I know it will take more than having an artist date, starting a hobby or thinking happy thoughts. I need to rediscover the single-minded fire and ambition I used to have. I’ve never been the kind of rebel who dances on tabletops or rides a motorcycle across Australia, but I’ve always had an outlaw outlook that now seems to be behind bars. Have you ever found yourself in this state, and if so, what got you over the wall?

7 Responses to “What’s Holding You Back?”

  1. dragonflyreflections says:

    I read something today that really resonated with me and I think it might have been meant for you too. It was a story from “My Grandfather’s Blessings” (Rachel Remen) about a physician who had become disillusioned with his work and was considering retirement. Remen suggested he begin a daily journal practice in which he would answer three questions… 1) What surprised me today? 2) What moved me today? 3) What inspired me today?

    It took the physician some time,- at first all he could muster was “nothing, nothing, and nothing,” but it caused him to start noticing the world around him and, eventually, it made all the difference in the world.

    I’m going to give a try – as Remen says in her book – it’s cheaper than therapy! I know there is wonder all around me – I imagine it’s just a matter of opening my eyes and heart to it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Shall we take the jail metaphor a little further?
    Jail is not something you can walk away from. You must first go to the parol hearing and prove you are healed and repentant. Then you have to go through the probation. Then you can be free again.
    Your morning pages can take you a long way through that process. Don’t under-estimate them.
    Me. I’m not ready. I’m pondering the jail cell, parol hearing and probation and my answer is that even if I never make it out, it was still a life worth living. Maybe I’m doing less harm here in jail. Maybe the structure is what I really need to tame my lawless, inconsistent nature. Then again, I don’t know of any regretful escapees.


  3. V-Grrrl says:

    Have I ever felt like this? Yes! I recently did an art journal piece based on feeling fenced in not by dire circumstances but comfortable ones.


    How to break out? For me, it’s recognizing that most of the walls that hem me in are ones I’ve built myself–in my life style, my thinking, my perceptions. As Dragonfly points out in her comment, sometimes the circumstances we chafe against are full of opportunities we refuse to see.

    I do think journaling, exercising, and pushing ourselves to try new things can stoke our passions. I also think it’s perfectly normal (though horribly annoying) to go dormant for a “season,” however long that season is. I like to think that while I’m in the doldrums, there’s a whole lot going on in my subconscious, and if I allow my mind to go blank and don’t panic, eventually I’ll be rewarded with a fresh crop of creative energy and ideas. Maybe that’s just a grand rationalization, a defense against the reality of boredom, but it’s the theory I’m sticking with for now.

  4. Jane says:

    I’m there now, Nikki. I’ve learned over time that, for me, there is no one answer. Motivation and inspiration that worked last year or five years ago don’t move me at all this year. New impetuses arrive as they will, and I’ve never been able to push for them. Instead, something usually happens, outside in real life, or as an unexpected interior shift, and then. . .the wall just disappears.

    Still, I’ve never lost the tendency to keep pushing, or the panic that comes when I suddenly find myself without words — or at least words I like.

    I’m there. I can’t offer you advice, but I’ll sit over here in solidarity with you trying to find the nuggets in the dust.

  5. frida says:

    thanks so much for the great comments/ideas/moral support!

  6. Mira says:


    I think you are a renegade. And you would be one who would reject conventional behavior. I speak-a-the-language, sista…I can relate. There’s a unique aspect to who we are, and I’d love to encourage you with these words:

    You’re more than a revolutionary, and yet, you’ll inspire great change. But that’s bigger than you, and that isn’t always about anything that you are or aren’t doing. In fact, you have a larger responsibility that sits, uncomfortably, perhaps, upon your loving shoulders: You’re asked to continually follow time. And to learn patience. And to cultivate a personal, peaceful revolution that requires and deserves rest. Because, you already have everything you’ll need to get the project started, but the other players aren’t ready…and they are necessary. So, you get to play. So, you get to breathe and live and, when the time is right, the players will present and your project will unfold.
    You ought to know that you have spent a lot of time working and creating a sacred space for so many people outside of you…and, perhaps, you’ll find rare and uncomfortable opportunities to manage only your space. And that might not look like what you had imagined.
    But I believe in you. I have faith in you. In fact, I know that, at some point, some other convention will launch itself into your face and you will, undoubtedly, have just the right fire power to either bow, strike or dance with it, as would be necessary or fitting.

    I salute you and I support you and I beg you to consider: Everything you are doing and have done is exactly, just right. And you’re next step may not be directly in front of you, but it’s there. It’s coming. And if you keep walking on, you’re getting there.

    I can’t wait!!!