My writing isn’t going well. This makes sense since I’m not actually doing it.
I’m not sitting down at a pre-determined time or any other time, either. When I do sit down to work on my novel, I inevitably realize almost immediately that the cats need feeding or my guitar just MUST BE TUNED RIGHT NOW. Or my room needs cleaning. Or my partner is in distress and needs my attention–even though really she’s playing out in the garden, happy as a clam.
I’ve just begun to practice very limited mindfulness in the Tibetan Buddhist sense. But even I, in my decidedly un-evolved state, can tell that I am resisting writing. Why?
I’ve just started reading Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice by Laraine Herring. She talks about the personal risk a writer takes:
[T]he risk of writing is an internal risk. You brave the depths of your own being and then, oh my, bring it back up for commentary by the world. . . .
But what of the novelist who has a persistent pull towards tulips, or who hears the whisperings of an old man in her ear? Does she know what she’s risking? Likely not at the beginning, but the risk will become evident through the writing. . . . When you discover what you’re risking, you may “block.” . . . I’ve noticed that the closer I get to the heart of the story, the quicker and more solid the “block” seems to feel.
Why do we do this? Why do we plump the depths of our souls to bring up stories that are so true that they scare us? In Tibetan Buddhism, I have learned that they often dedicate a meditation or a class or teaching or work party or any number of things to something outside of themselves. I think about this when I ask myself why I write, and there are two reasons: I write to answer the questions buried so deep inside of me that I don’t even know I’m asking them. And I write to share those answers with all the children and teens who are hurting in the specific way that makes them have the same questions.
But it scares me. The muck of a life lived fully has potholes and sinkholes and quicksand and monsters. And the real questions almost always deal with them. I believe that I am becoming a better person by doing this work. I believe that I will help someone with it. And yet still I avoid it. And the closer I come to getting somewhere, the more adamantly I avoid it.
This is the practice. To notice my resistance. To notice the fear. To be gentle with myself when I can’t write it. And eventually to sit back down and do it anyway. To sit with the discomfort of whatever comes up. And to keep trying. And when I notice that all my frantic energy has just been to keep me from the real work, I gently, with compassion, rededicate myself. This is the practice.
I believe that this work is worth doing. I believe that we all have something to give to the next generation whether we are weird or normal or happy or misunderstood. Whether we are damaged or whole or fearless or scared. We all have stories to tell that can help someone else. It’s just whether we have the courage.
I’m working on it. The picture above is of the Buddhist retreat center where I’ll be spending the summer working, meditating, living, and writing. We shall see.