Sylvia Plath and Learning to Trust Your Gifts
I’ve been meaning to read “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” by Sylvia Plath for years and last night, I finally did and I loved it. I love Sylvia Plath because something about her life and work draws me in. She’s one of those writers I feel like I know somehow because I relate to her so well.
I have no intention of offing myself, but the connection between creativity and depression fascinates me. The thing I think I relate to the most though, is her struggle to own her writing. To trust it.
You see, Sylvia wanted to be a highly-paid travel journalist and to publish short stories in popular journals. Poetry was just a release for her and sadly, she didn’ t become famous until after her death. She agonized over every word, she doubted herself even though she was a fabulous writer of prose and poetry. She married a successful poet and felt that she lived in his shadow because her career never took off in her lifetime. She waited for that validation from other people-the publicity, the paycheck- to be happy and acknowledge her gifts. She didn’t trust herself at all, and I think it was that turmoil that finally killed her.
I know what it’s like to be depressed, to agonize every every word and feel like I’m dragging the prose out of myself because I can’t reach that place where it flows naturally, to fear and yearn and strive but feel like I always fall short.
Sylvia, why didn’t you see how amazing you were?
After reading Johnny Panic, I realized how important it is to trust our gifts. We need to trust our creativity, recognize our talents and put them to work. Enjoy them whether we’re making money from them of if we’re not quite there yet.
I know I’ve doubted myself. All my life I’ve wanted to be an artist and writer, but after a few years of a near creative paralysis, I actually considered that maybe that wasn’t my calling. Maybe I should give it up, go back to school and get a real job. Now, I realize what a heinous thought that was.
You have gifts. We all do. They’re meant to take care of us and to make the world better. Hiding them is irresponsible. Here’s a few tips for trusting your gifts and bringing them out into the world.
- Develop self-love- In order to trust yourself and recognize your gifts, you have to love yourself. When you love someone, you see their strengths. When you don’t like someone, you only see their weaknesses. Make friends with yourself.
- Take care of yourself- if your emotional, physical or spiritual channels are plugged up, your creativity won’t flow. Take care of your body, express your emotions, give yourself the emotional space you need to have stillness so you can really think and ponder about things. Keep everything open; the flow of emotions, your bodily systems, and your mind.
- Find a safe place to play- if you don’t feel safe to experiment, express and even fail, you’ll always be stuck in some serious creative muck. Find a safe place, whether it’s a physical place or a mental state that allows you to open up and let things pour out. Don’t worry about making money yet. Don’t worry about anyone seeing what you’re doing. Let go of the urgency. Once you’re comfortable doing this in your safe place, practice moving it out into the world.
- Be like a child- Do children doubt themselves? Do children worry about what other’s think? Do children ever worry about failure, or that their scribbles aren’t good enough to adorn Mommy’s fridge? Play. Make a mess. Paint with your fingers if you want.
- Keep your mind open and be optimistic- Don’t be afraid to try new things if you discover one thing doesn’t work for you. Instead of putting a price tag on your satisfaction, invent your own definition of success. Enjoy doing what you’re doing just because you love doing it. Find the good in struggle, because struggle is all about learning.
- Be grateful for your gifts-You say “thank you” when someone gives a gift, so be grateful for your talents. They’re there for a reason; to make you happy, just like a gift that comes wrapped up with a bow.
- Know your purpose- Know what these gifts can do for you, your loved ones and the world. Even if you’re not sure, just understand their value. If this is hard, make a list of all the things you can do with your gifts and your life, then go back and read it and see which ones hit home with you. Keep refining this list and pondering it until you get it.
Posted on May 30, 2011, in Authenticity, Creativity, Gratitude and tagged Creativity, gifts, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, purpose, Sylvia Plath, talents, trust. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.