As I became older, my writing gradually became less and less free. The more I tried to follow ‘the rules’, the more difficult it became to write. The more difficult it became, the more pressure I put on myself to get it right. Writing a simple essay or column felt like the wrestling match of the century. I simply could not relax into the process and let the words come – I had to control them. I felt stifled by the form I thought was imposed by others on my writing. Although, in reality, I was being suffocated by the harness of rules and perfection, in which I had encased myself.
When I went to university, I basically gave up creative writing and focused on my scientific career instead. In science, the rules of writing are uncompromising; the structure of a scientific paper, including the placement of every dot and comma is predetermined. In essence, the rules imposed from the outside were even more constricting than my own. Strangely enough, at some level, it felt like a relief. I did not need to be creative; I did not have show myself or be myself, at all. At another level, after following those rules for ten years, after writing other people’s stories for a decade, every cell in my body was aching to be free.
I embarked on a journey of personal development and self-discovery. Peeling off layer after layer of protecting armour that was clouding my mind, encasing my body and surrounding my heart. Allowing my mind to absorb new knowledge beyond the conventional. Allowing my body to feel its pain and to express itself freely in movement. Allowing my heart to open up and express itself through my voice. Opening myself up to the present moment.
One day, I felt words inside, words wanting to be released. A hesitant start, taking baby steps, unsure what was expected of me, how to navigate this uncharted territory. Being afraid that it was going to feel like before, that I would freeze, that nothing would come out. Grappling internally with my self worth – or lack thereof: What could I possibly have to say that would interest anyone? Incredibly afraid that my writing was not going to be enough; that I was not going to be good enough. A that moment a friend gave me the decisive push I so needed. ‘Milena’, she said, ‘I want you to write something to me, every day for the next two weeks’. The topic: ‘What I love about myself’.
I had tried free writing exercises before. For me, they had never worked. For some unfathomable reason, this did. The exercise gave me just enough structure to be able to find the beginnings of a shape, yet was boundless enough to encourage free fall. I started writing whatever came into my mind and miraculously a structure and distinct style started to develop from within.
The process of writing always was (and still is) a perfect mirror of the level of freedom I feel and the room I have within myself to be myself. As long as I am not free to be myself, I cannot express what I feel inside. I cannot tell my own story. That 8 year-old girl already knew this. So she embarked on a journey, determined to find her own voice and her own story. She has travelled a long way, and has a long way to travel still; opening up to the present moment and whatever wants to be seen. In the process discovering that it is not so much about writing her own story, as it is about allowing life to tell its story through her.