I have an intense love-hate relationship with academics. Part of me absolutely adores that world. The reading, the discussing, the writing, the constant learning and mental stimulation. It’s all encompassing, challenging, and thrilling. Plus, I was damn good at it. I knew that world, the ins and outs of professional history. I had been preparing for years to live in that world, to operate in it, to own it.
But there is a part of me that loathes it. The constant need to be extremely specific, leaving nothing to the imagination. The fine line between challenging the historical paradigm while not offending the community of historians. The need to be mindful of every word, every implication, every nuance strangles the spirit and crushed my creativity. I wanted more than this. I needed to write more than this.
So I left.
A few days ago, a friend and writer that I respect said I’ve been holding back in my writing. At first I was taken aback. Writing for this blog, crafting each post has been like accepting a little piece of freedom. Each post is a piece of my heart. They each mean something to me. I felt as if instead of holding back, I was laying everything out, putting my soul out there for everyone to see.
Holding back, huh. Guy must be crazy.
But I thought about it for a second, and the notion began to seep in. The idea danced around in my mind. I considered instead not what I’ve been writing, but the way I’ve been writing it. I thought about the time I take to write a piece, the carefulness with which I choose each word. I remembered the number of times I read each post before publishing it; the amount of self editing that has become habit.
I’ve approached every piece the way I would approach an historical essay. I’ve taken the very aspects of writing in the academic world that I hated and brought them into the place I wanted to be set free. I’ve carried the limitations into this space. I’ve carried my reserve into my new world. I’ve let my fear of saying the wrong thing undermine my ability to perhaps, just once, say the right thing. I’ve worried about offending, upsetting, and accidentally challenging you (and even myself) to look at something in a new way. I cared more for word choice and semantics than purpose and meaning. I cared more about how my words would be received than what they meant to me.
I focused on all the wrong things. And for that I’m sorry.
Write like you’re the only one who will read it, he said.
Write for myself. I’ve never been allowed to do that. Everything I’ve ever written has been for someone else. For a professor, my peers, an historiographical point of view. The topics were set, the rules were understood, the purpose explained. There was a box, and while I could test the boundaries of it, I was never really allowed to leave it. Academics is about working within the boundaries that centuries of historians have already created.
But I want to create my own box. I want to write for myself. I want to write with the rules I create. I don’t want to hold back, limit myself, be afraid of making a mistake. I don’t want to hide behind my words. I want to be unleashed by them, set free with each sentence. I want to create.
My pastor talked today about holding back. (I’m thinking there is a conspiracy afoot.) Christians, he said, like to say that they are all in for God. Every part of them, every talent and every dream, are at His disposal. Our lives and hearts are dedicated to His service, to His mission.
But if we look at our lives, really look and examine, we usually find there is something in our lives we keep back. There is a part of us we hide, a gift or calling we haven’t fully embraced. We tell God we’re all in, but we haven’t given everything over to Him. We haven’t surrendered everything.
Each of us has a calling, a gift, a purpose. We are blessed with something that God gave only to us. We have a purpose only we can fulfill. He has gifted us with something we are to share with the world. We are called to share it with the world. We aren’t meant to hold back, to hide, to keep it to ourselves. We aren’t meant to be afraid of what we can do, of what we can accomplish. We aren’t told to be selfish with our calling.
We are meant to embrace it, proclaim it, use it in any and every way we can.
To deny what we are meant to do is to deny a part of ourselves. To be afraid of the gift God gave us is to have an irrational fear of the plan God has for you.
So I’m going to try something new. I don’t know what it’s going to look like or what’s going to mean for my writing. But I don’t want to keep holding back. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to dive in. I want to live the words and let them move me. I’m going to let it all go. Because I’m done with being careful. I’m done with the rules. I’m done with trying to please everyone with my writing to the point of denying myself. I’m done ignoring God’s calling for me.
I’m ready to truly write.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts.
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