Out of Shape: A Ramble

My writing muscles have atrophied from lack of use. Here’s what happened today when I decided to sit down to blog:

I’ll wash the dishes first. Is that a cloud? I better take the laundry off the line. Phew, it’s hot! I need a cold drink. I better refill the ice tray. Now I have to pee. I’ll text Molly and see when she’s heading back from her weekend jaunt out of town. I’ll just read the first section of the newspaper…

You get the idea. In the end it took me nearly an hour to finally hunker down. This is typical these days as is using the delete key like crazy, backspacing out as many words as I write, sometimes clearing away full paragraphs so I’m facing the same blank page I began with. Left to ferment, my perpetual inner-critic has grown bigger than ever.

From lack of use, I struggle to find my voice again. And then there’s the existential part. Why do it? This is what I’ve been wrangling with.

Last autumn I experienced a big change – I felt like a rock at low tide – upended to reveal things I never imagined beneath me. I’ve yet to process it all and will not do it here except to say I ended things with the man I’d lived with for 10 years. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a brief statement about the break-up of her marriage that resonated with me. “…I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.” I can write about my late husband because he’s dead and because my daughter’s okay with it. Thanks to the gift of time, I do so from a loving place. But this new chapter in my life, put my writing life on pause.

Did you see Everything is Copy the excellent documentary about Nora Ephron by her son? I flinched more than once at how meanly, even if brilliantly, she wrote about people in her life that she’d once cared for. I don’t have the stomach for inflicting pain with my writing. My blog once went ‘viral’ read by thousands a day for a few days. Part of the blog was critical about someone I didn’t know, who I never imagined would read it since I usually had only a few dozen followers. My thrill at having so many hits was eclipsed by a sick feeling when the person (not identifiable except to her) read it and let me know. I was mortified, deleted the reference and still feel badly. I could never be a critic! And where does that leave me as a writer, period? Am I brave enough to write without restraint? I grapple with that.

tet

Then there are safer subjects – my meanders through the world, observing nature through the seasons. Without the sweet ritual of morning walks with Tetley who died in early Spring, I have floundered. My quiet time out on the street at the beginning, the end of the day, to look at the sky, smell the change of seasons, search for the songbird in the wood, feel the grit or slip under my feet. This discipline put me in a good place to write from – all senses alert. I miss that, but no I’m not ready for another dog. For one, it’s not fair to leave a dog alone all day and I haven’t won the lottery yet and must keep my day job.

Why write? Why blog? Even an inkling of those questions will halt my presses and the less I wrote these last months, the more I questioned.

I started this blog years ago on the advice of someone in publishing who said I should ‘establish an internet presence’. Initially I was reluctant thinking it self-indulgent. I hesitated to reveal myself to complete strangers – or even friends. Ironic since I’m also flogging my very personal memoir.

But in blogging I discovered the joy of being read. And of reading other blogs. And the tremendous benefit in regularly excavating, spewing and honing and finally letting go of something, surrendering it to the world.

Ultimately I know getting in shape is like any exercise: it’s about discipline. I also know it’s worth it. When I am in the flow of writing a piece, even if only for 30 minutes before going to work, I get to carry it with me as I go about my day, incubating my piece. It almost feels physical – a sense of well being, excitement.

That’s it, I guess – why I write at all. I feel better for living a creative life. In examining the unexpected world beneath that rock at low tide, I learn things about myself. Writing helps me figure out where I am, where I to go. Sometimes I think you, my dear readers, find it interesting too. I cherish that and frankly – wouldn’t do it without you.

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7 Responses to Out of Shape: A Ramble

  1. Oh Tricia – know that I am one that appreciates your insight and nuanced observations so very much. I look forward to reading each piece you post – and I’ve missed your presence in my inbox. “I feel better for living a creative life.” And you make me feel better knowing you’re out there living it. Keep on writing!!!!

  2. jacquem275 says:

    Very touching post, Tricia. By all means, keep writing!

  3. Tessa says:

    Tricia, this is lovely. Your calm, insightful voice comes through so clearly and I love to hear your voice jump out at me from the screen of my iPhone. This is every writers’ dilemma. Why write? Who cares? You asked a question and, in bothering to write all this down, you elicited the answer also. You wrote it, I read it, it resonated, and made me want to respond. Write from the heart, and readers will respond. We do care, as you do. Have a lovely day, my dear!

  4. It’s funny why we start these things and then why we keep on putting text out into the world. I take blog breaks often and haven’t found a way to keep my fiction and my blog alive at the same time, but I’ll keep at it because I have fun doing it. I also like the small community of writers I have met through this blog thing.

  5. Lea Sylvestro says:

    Oh how I relate to this piece. Summer calls me outside and a keyboard and screen do not beckon in the least. Your description of the almost physical joy of having some solid writing underway is perfect as well. That feeling lets me know I AM doing the right thing when I am writing. So many writing books say that to “be a real writer” you have to write every day…1000 words or so is a nice round number. But life calls and I tell myself that is equally important….so maybe I’m not a real writer. When asked why she writes, Anne Lamott said, “Because I like it and I’m good at it.” So I forgive myself during fallow times and say those two are reason enough…aren’t they? XXOO

  6. LaVagabonde says:

    I know the feeling. Why do it, indeed. Posting less makes it harder to get going again. But know that you have readers who truly appreciate your words.

  7. I too am one of your readers who appreciates so much your words — frequent or infrequent as they may be. I too have been on a long and unintended blog break but am feeling the need to resume to a more regular routine. I really relate to your feeling of writing in the morning and then “I get to carry it with me as I go about my day.” Thank you Tricia.

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