When I decided to take on this gig, which involves writing to you all several times a week, it brought up lots of feelings. The first flush were the most pleasant – great pleasure in being accepted as a Patheos blogger, gratitude for the opportunity, and excitement about how I might use it.
Others feelings followed. During my career as a writer I have become tangled up in chasing affirmation and fame, and I didn’t want this new role to hook me into wanting more readers. I know from experience that ‘more’ is never enough. I worried about my credentials as a Buddhist writer – was I learned enough? Would other Buddhists pick holes in my knowledge? Then there was an impatience to get started, fear about not keeping up, a concern that you would find me annoying…
One of my fears was about having enough to say. There is already a lot of literature in the world. Reams of it is of extremely good quality. Wise people have already said pretty much all there is to say. What could I possibly add? Won’t I just be clogging up the world with more extraneous words?
Last night I was flicking through an old favourite book by the wonderfully formidable Brenda Ueland, ‘If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit’. In it she reminds her students that “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” She speaks up fiercely for the unique wisdom that lies inside every single person, which cannot be replicated by anyone else. This wisdom doesn’t depend on a learnt cleverness but on our capacity to be humble and authentic.
This is my experience too, through attending 12 step groups and our Amida Shu Listening Circles. In these rooms, I sit in a circle with people from all walks of life and I open my ears. I hear the wisdom of the Buddhas coming from the mouths of others, often from the people I’d written off as having ‘nothing to say’.When I speak myself in these groups, I try to step aside and allow the Buddhas to speak through me. I try not to change what I’m saying in order to impress anyone or manipulate anyone. I try not to worry too much about how silly I might look or where I might be exposing my vulnerabilities. When I manage to do this, it seems that at least one person in the room finds something in what I’ve said which is helpful to them.
When speaking about how she doesn’t plan her books, Ueland says: “First write, then plan. Every word must be filled with freedom and meaning because you think it is so and because you wish to express it. Written thus, the book will be alive. I don’t mean that it will be successful. It may be alive to only ten people, but to at least those ten it will be alive. It will speak to them. It will help to free them.”
This, then, must be my goal here. I will try to write from my heart – to fill my words with freedom and meaning. If I do that, then I don’t need to worry about how many people are reading them. I will let the words come alive and go out into the world without me. If they contribute to bringing a few people insights, or to a few people feeling more free, then I will be a very happy blogger. And don’t forget, that’s how it works when you speak too.
Namo Amida Bu.