4.1.2 Break the ‘Writing is Selfish’ Pitfall

As we have discussed throughout our many explorations so far in Unavoidable Writing, there is no shortage of negative stigmas and stereotypes that follow the experience of writers, artists and creatives:

Of them, “starving artist syndrome” dictates a particular expectation that people who are not creatives and artists have of artists.

The idea is that, since art isn’t “real life” and that most people “couldn’t possibly” support themselves or live comfortably through their art alone, that artists must have some propensity for martyrdom, as if being an artist means desiring and attracting and priding oneself on the hardship that comes with the territory.

But a lesser known pitfall of the creative journey is the idea that writing, creativity and art are necessarily selfish in that they, so it’s said, take away from other more important priorities in the “real world.”

I call this the “Writing is Selfish” pitfall.

It’s a trap of a thought — a paradigm that enforces strict self-limitations on the amounts of creativity, spirit and even happiness that you could ever feel. Not just in your writing, but throughout your life.

The “Writing is Selfish” pitfall implies…

  • What I do for myself, I don’t do for others
  • What I do for others is better — kinder, more compassionate, or necessarily better — than what I do for myself
  • What I do for myself is ultimately selfish
  • What I do for others is ultimately selfless
  • When I give to myself, it takes away from what I give to others
  • When I give to others, it’s still morally right or good or just, even if it comes at my own expense

Have you heard yourself thinking or feeling any of these “Writing is Selfish” scripts?

If you’ve answered yes… you are not alone!

These scripts are all based on our old friend, the Guilt Shadow, which as we now know has a big hand in disrupting the purity of our inner feeling states, and how we perceive feeling as an intuitive resource of self-trust, inner guidance and desire.

These scripts permeate our desires to write and create by falsely imprisoning us with even more guilt that implies “giving to ourselves” robs innocent others of what we could be giving to them.

This guilt is comes from a scarcity mentality: an outlook or understanding that, while hardwired into our brains from thousands of years’ worth of evolution, makes us think that there is never enough of anything — time, energy, money, care, consideration, and so on — to go around.

The scarcity mindset is a physiological pressure — a natural state of worry that there isn’t enough — and it overrides our logic and reasoning, even when we know there’s more than enough to go around.

When scarcity dictates our thinking and behavior, our minds make a logical connection that maybe something really bad will happen if we don’t make every effort to worry, warn, and predict hardship.

The guilt that walks hand-in-hand with scarcity thinking also disproportionately affects people who are parents, caregivers, nurturers, highly empathetic, compassionate and people-pleasers. Women in our society, in particular, are disproportionately affected by the “Writing is Selfish” pitfall because of the repressive expectations that have long been forced upon women, especially wives and mothers and caregivers, who are falsely told that giving to themselves is selfish.

It’s time to break the “Writing is Selfish” pitfall.

If you find yourself feeling like what you give to yourself — what you give to your writing — is necessarily and indisputably selfish, I’d like you to ask yourself the following questions in your journal…

  • “Do I really serve the best interests of those around me by not giving to or supporting myself?”
  • “If my health, from my physical well-being to my mental-emotional health, suffer because I focus so much on taking care of everyone else, who ever will take care of me?”
  • “Is it truly ‘selfless’ to neglect taking deep care of myself?”
  • “What kind of behavior and expectations am I modeling if I don’t take care of myself — health-wise, or in terms of following my passion, desire, dreams, and feeling good?”
  • “In what ways is giving to myself a reflection of the abundance that I already have and trust will remain, despite what my physiology tells me there ‘isn’t enough’ of?”
  • “Is my writing really selfish, or is it actually selfless, in that it supports me to be more of my whole, true, and centered self?”

Follow the threads of these story-starters and see if you can unpack where your “Writing is Selfish” pitfall comes from, and if it’s really true.

I have a feeling that, deep down, you already know that giving to yourself is the best way to give to others around you… and that, despite what social norms and repressive cultural expectations may imply, giving to yourself is the best way to model leadership by example for those who look up to you and rely on you for so much.

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