I usually like to blog about writing issues and questions that I face as a writer – I like to feel and imagine that I’m helping other writers – if only by being in conversation with them.
& don’t you just love this picture!? I took it on the sacred site of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. On the ground, it just looked gray and sucky. This article is all about perspective.
I am a writer – and I know what many of the challenges, missteps, and big, hairy obstacles are.
Honestly, I think a lot of them just SUCK. That said, we don’t have to stay in the suckiness. We have a choice. For me a lot of suckiness has centered around the phenomenon commonly known as writer’s block.
I grew up in a hard-working meat and potatoes family with a single dad. There were no “arts” in my family. I started reading at the age of 4 and writing at about 6 or 7. I would hide my writing from everyone, thinking – no one will want to see this. In fact, my dad could barely get up enough energy to say hello to me at the end of his 14 hour days. Most of the time, I was alone.
One day, I decided to show a poem to my mother when I was visiting her. I was about 11. After she read it, she handed it back to me and said you didn’t write this. C’mon. Tell me the truth – who wrote it?
My mother never did accept that I actually wrote that poem.
That was the last poem I showed anyone for years.
From then on I struggled with a mighty block that I didn’t even know was “writer’s block.” Because in my family, you grew up to be a teacher or a nurse or a government worker. There was no language for me, for what I was.
So many years went by – I spent all of them erasing the fact that I was a writer. I tried so many things and succeeded at some and failed at even more. During that time, I learned I actually couldn’t be whatever I wanted. But I did happen to notice, here and there, that the only thing I was ever really sought out for was writing. I could do that – but what did I care?
I believed there was NO WAY I could make a living at it. I believed I could not raise my daughter or be a good wife if I was a writer. I believed I might start writing and find I wasn’t really a writer after all. And the worst part was that I believed that it might kill me.
See when I was a teenager I struggled with extreme depression. This depression started when I was a child of about 9 and never stopped. The first poet I ever connected to was Sylvia Plath –and we all know what happened to her. Then, there were others.
I got the message that to be a writer was to be alienated from society, alienated from joy, and to finally succumb to depression, mania, or suicide. I was already depressed, sometimes even suicidal. I didn’t need anything to push me deeper in. I later learned that what I called “depression” were necessary episodes of grief that reflected life experiences that I had no control over.
By not writing, I was trying to protect myself from the emotional dangers it seemed to pose.
I remember being a teenager, laying in bed and literally thinking: if I can just grow up and be a good mom that’s all I want. I’m not going to ever write until I know I can be a good mom, a stable person, a good person.
I remember one day when my sweet daughter was about three, I became engrossed in writing a poem. I was in total trance-y flow. I looked up and she was gone. I looked for her in the living room, in the kitchen, in her little toy-strewn bedroom of our modest air-force base housing.
Finally, I looked outside.
There she was, sitting in a little purple chair she had pulled up right on the edge of our driveway. She could have been in the road, down the street, anywhere. I frightened myself. It was years before I wrote another poem.
I believe writer’s block happens for really really really good reasons – that it reflects deep beliefs we have about ourselves, our childhoods, and our perceptions of our fundamental value in this world. It also reflects abusive, repressive, and negative forces within our culture and society.
It’s not necessarily something to get through or push aside.
Sometimes, it’s something to explore in and of itself.
What Changed (the short version)
Two years ago I decided to try writing. For real. To somehow push all my resistance aside and at least TRY. I gave myself permission to fail – indeed, I expected to fail (failure felt safe because I had failed a lot more than I succeeded).
I made a decision but it took me another year and a half to actually start writing. At some point, I had a hypnosis done – it was serendipitous and I wasn’t looking for it.
I laid on my bed while a friend of my boyfriends took me on a journey. Her name was Sara and she was staying with us to do trauma work on soldiers at a local VET center. Many of them struggled with alienation and PTSD. And so did I, yet our battles had been different. The hypnosis experience deserves its own post but I will say here that it involved my mother and a beautiful golden book.
It was about writer’s block. It was about mother love. It was about abandonment. It was about death.
I now know I could have been writing all along. All those years. But it’s good enough for me to be writing NOW. Now is all that matters.
Right now, I’m writing this little blog from my perfect, worn little desk that an old roomie left behind. I just moved it upstairs and invited my cat Angelina and my zen-hero dog Zenyu to nest with me. I am hoping that something of my little story will give someone hope.
Each week, I will be writing a little about ME & tell you about what I’m working on, what journals I’m submitting to, what MFA programs I’m looking at. I’ll tell you about my fiction projects, my non-fiction projects, my workshops, my writing groups, my fears, and my big damn audacious dream (that many would tell me is absolutely worthless).
I’ll talk to you about poetry, why I write it, and why it’s important – why all of our writing and creativity is CRITICAL.
I’ll talk about how fucking hard it feels. And how amazingly transcendent.
I’ll tell you about other creatives and artists, too, because they inspire me and give me hope. I’m so lucky to live in Asheville NC where there are so many talented, working artists.
I’ll tell you about the beautiful, brave baby-poets I meet – the ones (like me) who are committed to the craft because they just can’t do anything else.
Of course, I will also be writing information-based articles and posting super-juicy writing prompts, too. All this will happen on a weekly basis: prompts + articles + the “ME” edition. I’m committed to building a site that inspires and informs writers and poets in the best best best of ways. Thanks for reading the “ME” edition today & feel free to sing back!
BIG. HUGE. WRITER’S. LOVE. + MAY YOU INSPIRE YOURSELF JUST FOR TODAY ~