Pulling the Weeds: the process behind the story


Struggling to give myself over to my inner creative, to trust that the words will come, I end up holding it all tighter, my self confidence spiraling as I face my fears of failure, rejection and exposure. Writing can be the most frustrating, anxiety ridden, and fear based pastime, yet, I continue.

Earlier this year, I decided to make my work available on a website with the intention of putting myself out there and establishing a creative space. It has been difficult to find the time to write, but if I am honest, time is not the problem, it’s the feelings that writing triggers within me. Wanting to avoid the discomfort, I get lost in the daily maintenance of our home, in surfing, in time with my family, and in my role as a therapist, where I find it much easier to help people move toward their goals.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a woman who was moved by my work. Moments before, I had been full of self doubt, wondering why I was sharing my essays in the first place and here she was asking if she could include one of them on her website, GatherYoga.com.

We met for lunch and I felt a connection with this woman who appeared out of nowhere. As we discussed yoga, healing and raising boys, she asked me to write about an experience I had shared with her. She didn’t give me a deadline, although she offered to, and there were no parameters other than the topic we had agreed on. Leaving our lunch, I felt excited by the opportunity to create something for her.

I then spent weeks writing scattered paragraphs, unable to find my ground in the topic. My excitement quickly faded as the essay became a task, a job to finish, a performance for a woman I barely knew but who seemed to appear everywhere since our children, coincidentally, go to the same elementary school. I began filling the page with words that I imagined she and her audience wanted to read, forgetting that she had specifically asked for my voice. Frustrated and angry, I was ready to say “fuck it” and walk away because it felt too hard. I believed I was failing, not only her but myself.

Having missed my self-imposed deadline, it occurred to me that my mind was writing this essay while I neglected the wisdom of my heart. As I attempted to write about compassion and embracing my inner darkness, I was actually browbeating the content out of me. Missing the point, I had mistreated a topic that I believe deserves reverence. Once I began writing from the truth of my experience, the piece came together.

Finished, it wasn’t the relief of having completed it that felt so good, it was my appreciation for the process. I emailed my essay to the woman, who is now a friend, and let her know that it was okay if she didn’t want to use it and I meant it. If she didn’t like it, I was actually willing to try again, interested in what I would discover about myself in the face of rejection.

I feel honored that she has shared my essay on her website but even more, I am filled with gratitude because working on the piece taught me that when I begin writing for an audience, real or imaginary, I am deviating from the authenticity that is my voice, stripping my work down to something different and less powerful. My brand of writing isn’t for everyone and I am pretty okay with that. I write to support my own healing and if by chance my work is healing for someone else, then that is a beautiful surprise, and one I don’t take lightly. In the meantime, as difficult as my relationship to writing can be, I am looking forward to standing in more of my own shit and mindfully turning it into gold.

Editor’s Note: I approached Ashley to write for us after reading some of her incredible work on her own website www.ashleytorrent.com. As an editor, I think I underestimate the process that writers go through in order to bare their souls beyond just the page in front of them and into the big, big world of Internet. Learning of Ashley’s opened my eyes to the reality of what I am asking someone to go through- which sometimes doesn’t feel pretty at all. Thank you for this inside look, Ashley. We are honored to share in your vulnerable open-hearted ways. And thank you to ALL my writers who go through it. We love you to bits. -Natalie

Ashley TorrentAshley Torrent is a writer, psycho-spiritual counselor, wife, surfer and mother of two beautiful beasts. She recently moved to South Carolina and is in the process of untangling her nervous system from the pull, the pace and the noise of New York City, her home for the last 14 years. Her collection of writing speaks to the different aspects of her life as a parent, as the child of someone with a severe mental illness and as a human being on a journey toward connection in a disconnected world. You can follow her at AshleyTorrent.Com

(Headshot used with permission by the author, featured image “Weed” used with creative commons license by Randen Pederson)

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