My guest, Fiona Robyn, writes that she is “on a mission to help people to slow down and fall in love with the world through writing. Fond of earl grey and home-made cake.”
Immediately I wanted to get to know someone who is also fond of cake. Many of us are, of course, but how many are quite so open about it?
From Malvern, Worcestershire (UK) … here is novelist, creativity coach, blogger (Writing Our Way Home) and more … Fiona Robyn.
- Welcome to SunnyRoomStudio, Fiona. What a pleasure to have you here to share some very inspiring thoughts. ♥
Why I Write: Gratitude for the Gift of Life
by Fiona Robyn
Thank you so much for inviting me into your studio, Daisy. I can just see the sun streaming in through the studio window, and imagine our chairs, our cups of coffee, and a generous slice of carrot cake to keep us going!
Tomorrow myself and my husband are holding a ‘coffee cake and Dharma’ morning, where we invite people into our home for a Buddhist talk followed by conversation and cake.
- So what does baking have to do with writing, or my life as a writer?
I wrote my first poem when I was twenty. It was for my first boyfriend, and I wanted to say something to him that only seemed possible in a poem. I’d always been in love with reading, but this was the moment when I realized I also loved creating my own strings of words – choosing the perfect words, and hearing them sing when I read them out loud.
Time went on. I continued to write, I joined poetry groups, and I learnt more about the craft. I experienced some small successes. I had poems accepted by various magazines, and I started getting readers on my blogs. I won competitions. Eventually, I found a publisher for my first novel. I liked it a lot!
But there was also a shadow side to this success. Having a poem accepted gave me an injection of excited happiness, like a sugar rush. I wanted more. When I didn’t get accepted, I was acutely disappointed. And when I did get poems acceptance, or praise from readers, it just inflamed my desire for more.
I was so relieved to find authors such as Anne Lamott, who talked about their relationship with success, and how problematic they found it. Lamott is especially encouraging, as she is uncompromisingly candid about her human frailties. I laughed and cringed in recognition as I read about her addiction to the sugar-rush of success. She was as terrible as me! For me, this was the key.
The only antidote I’ve found to this need of mine for praise, and for all the other failings that hamper my progress in the world as a writer and as a human being, is to be honest about them. If I pretend that I don’t care about what people think about my writing, I’d be kidding them and myself. I do care. It’s true that I write because I want to help others. And it’s also true that I write because I want to be loved.
- What I’ve found is, the more honest I can be (with myself and with others) about the mixture of motivations I have for writing, the more I can connect with the motivations that are less tangled up with my ego.
I’ve just finished reading a beautiful book about the poet Stanley Kunitz – ‘The Wild Braid’. The author spends time with Kunitz in his beloved garden, in his 100th year, where they have long conversations about plants and poetry and philosophy. He speaks beautifully about these more altruistic reasons for writing.
Kunitz: “As an artist, you are a representative human being – you have to believe that in order to give your life over to that effort to create something of value. You’re not doing it only to satisfy your own impulses or needs; there is a social imperative. If you solve your problems and speak of them truly, you are of help to others, that’s all. And it becomes a moral obligation.”
I made cake this afternoon because I wanted to offer something delicious to the people coming into our home. But I’m also feeding them cake because I want them to like me.
I do hope that people will like my writing, and that they’ll like me. Occasionally, this need to be liked still overwhelms me. But mostly, and more often these days, it doesn’t matter so much. More and more often, praise from other people feels like something extra – something delicious and wonderful, but not necessary.
As I continue on my journey as a writer, I think more and more about what I can offer to the world. As Kunitz says, I am trying to solve my own problems and then speak of them truly. That’s what I’m trying to do with these words, these words that I’m writing for you.
I’m catching a glimpse of something these days. Underneath all my insecurity and fear is a deep contentedness, and a deep gratitude for the life I have. You could call it a kind of faith.
- It’s rather wonderful.
I’ll leave you with another quote from Kunitz, as he says it better than I could. Be kind to yourself. Good luck with your own manifestations.
“… [our creative] work is not an expression of desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.”
Thank you, Fiona, for sharing your creativity here in this sunny space.
All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.
— George Harrison
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