It’s just paper. It can’t hurt you.
I guess it could give you a paper cut, but that’s cool, right? That’s nothing. That’s what Band-Aids are for.
Strangely enough, though, even the worst paper cut can't compare to the gut-wrenching emotional pain a piece of blank paper can cause. For a piece of flattened tree pulp, it’s shocking exactly how much of an effect it can have on your brain. One minute you’re sitting down happily at your desk, sipping your tea, ready to click your pen into action, and the next, your brain takes over.
I can’t think of anything to write. I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING TO WRITE!
Is this even original? This totally isn’t original.
I am the worst. The worst writer. There has never been a worse writer than me.
Who am I to think anybody cares about what I have to say?
Ouch. There it is. That’s the root of it -- somewhere along the line, you went from happy kid scribbling stories you made up (or totally plagiarized from the school library, whatever) to somebody paralyzed at the thought of filling that paper with words. Your words. Your thoughts.
Your thoughts that somebody once told you weren’t good enough. Weren’t important enough. Weren’t serious enough.
So here you are, not writing. Maybe the world feels a little duller than it used to. Maybe a part of you misses that feeling of creative expansion -- that thrill you can’t quite name. Maybe a part of you, in spite of everything, still believes you have a story to tell. Maybe it doesn’t want to waste any more time.
That’s where I come in. I help people learn to write fearlessly again, the way they did when they were kids, before report cards and red pen and spelling tests. I believe that true creative genius comes from the heart, not the head. I believe that by doing the deep work of challenging your painful core beliefs, you can access your authentic voice -- the voice that will reverberate off the page and resonate with readers. And most importantly, I believe that everyone has this power, regardless of how well you did in high school English or how many rejection letters you’ve received.
As a preschooler, my favourite game was pretending to make books. My childhood and teenage memories are punctuated by stories I wrote, writing contests I entered, and an extremely long and dramatic diary I kept stored on a floppy disk.
Writing wasn't something I thought about -- it was something I did. It was the only thing I could start doing and then look at the clock a moment later and realize three hours had passed. It was the most important thing in my life.
And then... I stopped.
It happened gradually, then suddenly. By the end of high school, I could feel the pressure mounting. Was I good enough to be a real writer? Would I ever be? I went off to university and let my authentic writing voice slip away. I became a person who used words like intertextuality and performativity and metanarrative. Then I started journalism school, where my teachers told me to forget my newfound vocabulary and focus on the 5Ws.
I graduated. I was lost. I started freelancing. I developed a magazine voice, a blog voice, and a different voice for every one of my ghostwriting clients. By all accounts I was succeeding as a writer, but as I churned out magazine articles, I still felt like something was missing. I could churn out a blog post in half an hour, but ask me to write something from my heart, and I’d completely freeze. I told myself there was plenty of time. I told myself I’d write for real someday.
Then I had a kid.
In my postpartum haze, all those questions that had once plagued me -- will I ever be good enough? Do I even deserve to write? -- suddenly didn't seem so important anymore. I was caring for a newborn around the clock, but somehow, writing found me again. I typed one-handed on my iPhone in the middle of the night while breastfeeding. I even managed to get myself out of the house once a week to go to a creative writing workshop (though I'm not sure exactly how.)
It happened slowly, but it happened. I started writing -- really writing -- and finally felt that sense of creative freedom I'd been longing for, even if it was still tinged with fear. I became a certified writing workshop facilitator and launched Nest & Story. I started writing poetry. I got accepted to a creative writing MFA program at the University of British Columbia. Slowly, slowly, the fear began to recede.
It took a lot of time, but one night I found myself sitting at my computer, staring at a blank page, and I felt it -- not fear, not anxiety, but pure, clean joy. I realized that this page was mine. I realized that on this page, anything could happen, literally ANYTHING, and whether that was a terrifying fact or an exhilarating one was entirely up to me.
That freedom is what I’d love to give you. But you know what? You already have it. It’s right there in your chest cavity, nestled beside your heart. I'm just here to help you find it.
Jaclyn Desforges is a writer, editor and workshop facilitator whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mortar Magazine, Peregrine, Literary Mama and Minola Review. She's the winner of the 2018 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award and is currently completing her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She studied Fine Arts Cultural Studies at York University with a focus on community arts practice, followed by Centennial College's post-graduate journalism program. In 2015, she completed the Amherst Writers & Artists Method leadership training program and began facilitating writing workshops through her business, Nest & Story. She also became a member of the Toronto Writers Collective and facilitated a weekly workshop at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre. Jaclyn lives in Hamilton with her husband and daughter and is writing her first book of poetry.