Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: "Writing"

It is strange the way pieces of personal history can grown so remote that, somehow, they separate from the central self. Cleaved like an iceberg, those painful bits drift out to sea. Last winter's lack of writing has become a distant memory that I can still feel somewhere deep inside my bones. Mostly, I feel regret for the time I lost, but even as I write the word "regret" I know that it is not exactly true.

It wasn't just the winter that was difficult to get through--it was an entire year (or more like 2 or 3). But it is this past winter that I remember best. The pinnacle of my writerly despair? Winter is the season whose starkness remains the clearest in my memory. I remember it as a time of walking. It was a time of whiteness, brittle branches, and drafts crawling across wooden floors. It was a time of darkly brewed morning coffee served in a large porcelain cup that I held with both hands. It was a fragile occasion, a time of horrible tears and self doubt and mind-numbing nothingness. The more time I had, the less I got done. It was a time of anxiety. Cold air, walking, my wolfie--these are the only things that made it possible to even breathe.

I was unable to do the one thing I love most: write. The void was dull and blunt and, my god, I have never been so scared of the lack of something in my life. Silence looked back at me with its blank face. Words piled up and got tangled like a jumble of broken chairs.

By spring, luckily, I was finally able to give up the ghost. Or perhaps, more precisely, I just plain gave up. And that's when it happened. That's when I started to really write again. That's when words ceased feeling so icy, so broken, so confusing.

In Writing Past Dark, Bonnie Friedman writes about mesmerizing herself with the ritual of language in the same way that the Bushmen were said "to mesmerize themselves, to enchant themselves, to induce a trance state for themselves so that a vision could come, an ecstatic experience beyond what they could reach with their ordinary minds." She explains:
"The Bushmen had visions of being what they hunted, what gave them life: an eland. They had visions of being dead, of being under water--a fish--and they returned from the trance swimming back toward life, their arms gliding, swimming back into the rhythmic pounding of stamping feet. People in the community had to touch them, had to welcome their bodies with their own patting hands so that they could fully return, so that they could be here now."
And that is what this blogging community has become for me. You are the people welcoming my body back into being so that I can start over, so that I can be here now. I first experienced this sort of community in a few good writing workshops--and maybe that is where I learned of its importance. Writing is a solitary act, but something incredible happens where people gather. Finding a balance between letting go and letting in--what could be more dynamic?

Friedman continues by saying:
"This is where wisdom came from: surrendering to what is beyond yourself, where your self is not. Discovering that you are part of an existence that is greater than you, that is greater than even your humanity, although you may experience this only when your thinking self is quenched."
It wasn't until I gave up that I was able to get past myself and all the manic thinking that had frozen me solid.

These days, I write because I enjoy it. I write because it helps me understand myself and the ever-shifting world around me. I write because I have something to say and because I have nothing to say. I write because I am happy, sad, lost, grateful, confused, content, passionate, frustrated. And sometimes I write because I am none of these. I write because I am in love with the details of the smallest moment, the smallest object. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to be quiet. I write because that is my better half. I write for pleasure. I write because I’m a glutton for punishment and because I like to make life complicated. I write to simplify. I write to sharpen the edges. And then I write to soften them. I write in search of something more. I write in search of truth. I write because I am waiting. I write for revelation. I write because it’s cheap. I write because I’m an idiot. I write to save myself. I write to lose myself. I write because I like the sensation of swimming. I write because I don’t know what I’d do otherwise. I write because I want to. But in the end, I write because I must…with hopes that the rest will follow.

...and you can find more writing here.


tara dawn said...

What a great post! So many reasons why we write, and yet the ultimate reason is that there just is not other option. It is bred into our blood, our souls, the very essence of our cores. And yet there are those times that periodically arise when the words just simply will not come, when we stare at a page and the other thing to appear is streams of tears. Letting go, giving up, and then coming back...a cyclical process. I love your words and I love the privilege of sharing your world through these words. You are such a gift and your writing is such a gift...thank you for both! I love you beautiful woman!
ps - another letter soon on the way

danae sinclair said...

looks to me like you've called back your soul... I loved reading this and got a lot out of it. Thanks so much for coming back home to writing!

Anonymous said...


mks said...

Hello - Came opver from Sunday Scribblings - Fantastic post. I love all the reasons you write - I mean for thos eof us who write - don't we always come back to it? Even if it is to say we are feeling like we can't write. WE are a cycle of support for each other understnading the cathartic nature of writing.

Amber said...

Ohhhh, you rock! This was amazing. A great post, and I felt so much of it in my bones. You were speaking for many, I know.

" Writing is a solitary act, but something incredible happens where people gather"--

Blogging really has done something for me. It gave me back the idea that I could write. That I really COULD write. It made me brave again, that is what it did. Lately I have been thinking about trying out real-life writers groups, or a conference maybe, for all the reasons you said.

You have SO much talent! Wow.

ps: I am looking for a cup I want you to paint for me, and I told Kory I was going to get one. I am excited!


gautami tripathy said...

In our writings we give out a bit of our souls. It is in our blood stream too.

Thoughtfully written post.

Anonymous said...

*sniff* This actually brought tears to my eyes. And that last little bit of your post was SO Beat. I think I need to make that my motto. As always, in awe of your talent and so grateful for your presence in my life. Love you, babe.

Olivia said...

Your best post yet, Jessie---amazing, soulful writing. Thank you, thank you, Olivia

bella said...

This is a truly amazing post.
I am awe struck.

Giving up, giving in, is the final letting go. And then, again and again, here comes life to greet us.

The image of touching the bodies of those returning from trance was haunting and so precisely IT.

For all the reasons you write, I am grateful. For I get to come and receive the fruit of your labors.

Becca said...

Such powerful words, rising from a dark experience. It is often that in losing something, even for a short time, we can clarify its significance in our lives. I think the certainty of knowing all those reasons for writing will prevent you from ever really losing the words.

Thank you for sharing such deep and meaningful feelings.

KRISTA said...

ooooh this is a gooood post.

laundrygirl said...

I love this! My post about writing was inspired by your last paragraph. You helped me get a grasp on why I really write...

Wenda said...

Ah Jessie, You continue to amaze and inspire me!

Jane said...

what a fantastic post! I never new I could write a thing until I began blogging. People have been so encouraging. Writing is therapy for me. As an artist, I understand that what we do is a solitary thing. Being able to connect with others helps to push me a little out of my aloneness.

harmonyinline said...

What a lot of reasons to write, and all good ones.
Great post.

paris parfait said...

Bravo, Jessie! Hear, hear! Thank you for the astonishing gifts of your writing and your friendship. xo

Tammy said...

You are a beautiful writer and artist, goodness only knows what else you can do. Awe!

tumblewords said...

How wonderful! Wise, humorous, truthful. I like that you write because you don't know what else to do. That resonates.

Patry Francis said...

I love the concept of writing as "mesmerizing oneself." If we can do that, how can we NOT create something wonderful?

Anonymous said...

My God can write your ass off!
I really, really LOVED reading this post!

deirdre said...

Yes to everything you've said here. Every word is true.