On Not Writing and Beyond

Last time we saw our intrepid hero, she was all swagger and ready to try out a new toy (which is still the best writing tool I’ve ever used, by the way) to write NaNoWriMo.

Then, she disappeared. Again.

What happened to the girl who wrote 13 novels in a year? Honestly, I wonder that often myself. I’ve been the boots on the ground realty of the intervening time, and I know exactly what happened: life. So much life. So many moves and changes and emotions, so many anniversaries, long nights spend in grief, and afternoons spent in wonder. I made some progress on The Novel, sure. I travelled, switched jobs a few times, had friends come and go and a few heartbreaks and major losses besides.

All the while I kept thinking: But you can write through this, surely. Just sit down and write a blog post about writing, It’s not that hard. You’ve got to keep it up. 

We all know this feeling. I know we do.

Writers can’t help but be a bit mad.

So I’d think about writing a bit and even get a good mental rap going about some topic. Something safe and writerly—maybe even inspirational.

I’d sit down to write.

And I suddenly couldn’t. It wasn’t block (it never really is), it was a rush of things to say; this burdensome crushing wall of words and emotions and feelings and reality all wanting to crowd out onto the page like touchy-feely word vomit. Suddenly I wanted to write about writing but only after I talked about taking my mother to the oncologist on my birthday, or the long nights throwing freight at Whole Foods and wondering what on earth I was doing with my life. I wanted to talk about death and getting older and realizing I’m 35 all of a sudden and about buying a house and cooking fried rice at midnight while pondering Irish mythology.

I wanted write it all, but none of it made sense and it wasn’t pretty, it didn’t match with what I wanted to say. Worst of all, none of it was about writing. So I walked away and made myself a sandwich and thought of more manageable things like politics and clutter.

It’s been like that for a long time. I haven’t written things because I am full to the brim of untold words. I seem normal on the outside, but within I thunder with unspoken thoughts, bulge and slosh with uncomfortable metaphors. It’s not pretty or polite like I want to seem, so I try to hold it in just a little bit longer. i hold it in so much nothing will ever escape, not even polite sensical articles for my blog.

This is the paradox of the writer, the reason we need to practice regularly or we get stuck and can’t move on until we pull the words from our veins. Regular writing isn’t an obligation for many of us, it’s an essential for mental health. We must write, we must tell stories, we must read. If we don’t, the world falls into a chaotic jumble of puzzle pieces with no edges or corners to make sense of it all. Stories will lead us home.

Incidentally, the cure often feels like poison instead. Reading is agony to the non-writing writer, like staring at the sea in thirst and knowing we cannot drink, writing like sliding our thumbs on open razors. Yet, the only true solution is to write, even if just a little bit. Tiptoe across the edges of writing where no one will see the mess that spills out and let all the stories tumble out into a heap on the page.

I’ll get better. That’s what I tell myself at least. The beginning is the most difficult.

So here we are again. Me at the ragged edge of discovery of my beloved craft and my own self after the storm. You, the willing passenger. I’m going to break with my theme some and tell you the stories crowding for attention ahead of the rest. It’s going to get messy up in here. Personal. Possibly unedited (because editing is the devil for productivity). Hell, this blog will probably be better for it.

I’ll see you soon.

Messily yours,

The author.

3 thoughts on “On Not Writing and Beyond

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