Guest Post~Tyranny of Freedom by Catherine Marshall-Smith

The Tyranny of Freedom

            When my children were small, I told myself that I would write more if I didn’t have children.  As they got older, I said I’d write more if I didn’t have them in the parent participatory school I had chosen for them.  When my youngest was seven, I went back to teaching and paid someone to replace me at his school.  Last year I said I could write more if I just didn’t have to teach.

I am off for the summer.  My two sons are on a fishing trip and my daughter is at work as is my husband.  I am so alone I feel naked.  I have done a record amount of laundry and gotten that mammogram I’ve been meaning to get all summer.  I’ve posted on Face Book and responded to my email.  And now I’m here staring at the cursor, which seems to be laughing at me.

Summer gives me freedom to write but I can’t.  I feel guilty because I am not using my time wisely.  I am not using it at all.  Writing is a pleasure, similar to meditation and when I hit my flow state I bounce back into life refreshed as though I just pushed up from the bottom of a swimming pool.  Grace settles over me, making me feel that everyone is my best friend.  My stories come from that sense of grace but it is difficult to find.  Like a G spot.  Or the peace that comes from being understood by a close friend.

During the school year I come home exhausted, have to contend with dinner and then somehow turn to my keyboard and let the ideas flow.  And they do.  Now I have a long, languid afternoon with absolute freedom to do whatever I want.  It’s quiet, there’s a breeze at my window.  The only noise is the PBS News Hour which I chose to turn on.  I have this panicky feeling that time is racing while I’m sorting socks.

What this also means is that I can never relax.  The school year is a steady stream of reasons to cope.  It is fast paced and fluid.  And it has a certain rhythmic satisfaction to it because every problem solved earns me gratification.  During the summer, I am becalmed by no deadlines and the belief that it is my God-given right to relax.  The only problem being that I can not relax either.  I waste irreplaceable time castigating myself for not writing while attempting to unwind.  I assign myself relaxation time during which I lie rigidly on the couch with a book in my hand, and my eyes on the clock.

So I’m stuck in limbo, feeling compelled to relax but unable to, needing to write, while powerless to think.  I worry about starting school without having written a word.  The Reality Police will come and tell everyone that I am not a writer.  But they’ll be wrong.   I did write this.


Once again, I’d like to thank Catherine for allowing her words to appear on my blog. Please feel free to say hello in the comment section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

juliet 🙂


Catherine Marshall-Smith
Has a written a novel, RICHARD AND MICHAEL: AN AMERICAN FAMILY, which is so far unpublished.  It is the story of two gay men, Richard and Michael, who met and fell in love in a Twelve Step program and their attempts to gain custody of Richard’s daughter from his fundamentalist Christian in-laws.  She was a nominee for the James Kirkwood Award for Fiction in 2011 and has recently received her Creative Writing Certificate from UCLA’s on-line writing program.  She is a middle school English teacher and lives in northern California with her family.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post~Tyranny of Freedom by Catherine Marshall-Smith

  1. Thanks for writing this Catherine, and if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. I often consider myself a wannabe writer and that if I were a real one then I’d be writing or writing more than I do. Simple as that. But it’s not. Writing flows from the soul and when the words come and express that source there is no wannabe about it. Sometimes forcing the words to arrive can create a backlash of self criticism and we stop. That’s not good we think, maybe I’m not a writer after all but we know that’s not true either because there are enough times when the writing changes from the demanded and forced to loosen up and become the joy we know it to be otherwise we wouldn’t keep trying. There’s no denying the obvious. But it’s also hard work and demanding. The difficulty often lies in the trust to let go and write ~ good, bad or indifferent. Avoiding that generates a ton of excuses, a log jam of chores that must be done and will need to be done again ~ and again. Yes responsibilities must be addressed but so must the call to write or create. We don’t disapprove of ourselves if we forget something from the store or the meal isn’t great or the garbage doesn’t get emptied. We don’t criticize who we are because we missed vacuuming some dust but we do make it hard on ourselves when we don’t write or think we’ve done a bad job when we do. That simply is not fair and not fair because that fragile link to our inner self is being suppressed and denied ~ like telling a little kid they’re bad or no good just because they’re trying to get our attention but will still want you to love them regardless of what they do. Writing, like little kids, often won’t do what we think it should. It often seems to have a mind of its own but there must be the trust and permission for that to grow and be expressed. Amazing things can occur as a result. When the words match the thought of what we wanted ~ and needed ~ to say the feeling is euphoric. Yes! When it doesn’t quite express those thoughts then it’s reworking them until they do. It’s hard work and much more difficult a task than what the world or family or even we think we should be doing instead. I’m not sure about anyone else but sometimes I’m lazy and procrastinate and will find a million odd things to take up my time instead of letting myself write. But since I really, really dislike chores then I read instead but then reading for me is next to writing so I admire the words of someone else and wish I could do the same thing. But those words were not always easy or free flowing for the author and my understanding is that many revisions and days and nights of anxious fretting to get it right occurred. Good for them because if they hadn’t been patient with themselves and trusting in the words to flow we wouldn’t be blessed with the books we love. We are writers too, not wannabe’s or lazy or preoccupied with other things. We love words and in putting them together to make sense of this world and life. So let’s love who we are and try to be patient with ourselves as the blossoming writers we are ~ like loving a little kid who just wants you to love it back. Mo


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