Friday, June 1, 2012

Aware Enough to Write

It would be easier for Buddha to write if he had hands...
There is a rather entrenched belief that there is no "middle ground" to the writing life.  You either strive, strain, kill yourself over your syntax or diction or you go the way of the divinely inspired, only running to your writing desk when a sharp, clarion call to the page keeps you from eating or sleeping.  What if it's neither of these things?  What if a sustainable writing life is a mixture of the two, combined with a bit of - gasp- fun?

I was a writer that prescribed to the former way of doing things.  For years, I literally tortured myself over my writing.  There weren't any knives in my ribs or thumbscrews on my hands, but there might as well have been.  Because even though I was certain that my passion was writing, I couldn't enjoy what I was doing when I was crafting a story.  I had bought into the notion that it had to be difficult: tears shed over whether or not a paragraph was "good enough", stomach twists while watching other people reading over my words.  There was a clear lack of joy.  In fact, it wasn't even a lack of joy.  It was simply pain.

I never thought of myself as a masochist, but my actions were saying otherwise.  I was willing to write, but I was also willing to sacrifice my mental health to do so.   

So I decided to change the way I looked at writing.  Or rather, I shut out the loads of programmed bullshit I'd allowed into my brain from years of writing and English classes.  I wouldn't worry about whether or not my story about a German exchange student would be "good" enough to end up in some literary journal that five thousand people subscribe to but only five people actually read.  I wouldn't worry about artificially creating thematic elements in my work. In other words, I'd take my mind out of the Iron Maiden.  And just, whoa, write.

This new way of writing, cutting out the self-doubt and axing the nagging bitch that lives somewhere in my cerebral cortex and says rather nasty things, has allowed for a new writing experience.  My writing has gone zen, gone mindful and aware and totally present.

Here's what I do; I begin each writing session with meditation or an exercise in awareness.  I don't sweat out my plot points or worry about how I'm going to describe a murder scene.  I breathe.  I look at the grain in my desk, the way it flows, the way it looks like a bit of cartography, lighter landmasses surrounded by blue-gray water.  I touch the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth and smile.  I actually smile before I write.  And this makes all the difference.

Because now, when I write, I don't hate the potential product, cast doubts on it or shelve it somewhere high on a pedestal.  I am present and I am writing.

When I'm writing, I'm a writer.  When I'm not writing, I'm a person that doesn't agonize over the fact that I'm not writing.  Instead, I'm present in whatever is happening then, at that moment.  Walking in Albertson's park with a new friend, being greeted by a young doe and scores of geese dropping chocolate brown feathers.  Brushing my hair and noticing how the snags turn into shiny, flat locks.  Kissing.  Laughing.  Weeping.

All these things are just as good as the writing.  And the more aware I become of my actions, the less I care about the labels.  Am I a writer?  Yes.  But when I'm kissing, I'm a kisser.  And when I'm crying, I'm a crier. 

But am I any of these things always?  Permanently?

Hell no.

I won't always be a writer in action.  I may take on the moniker as a way to self-identify but there are many other descriptors to play with as well.  For now, writer suits the me of today.  And the writer of today, well, she's going to have a ball getting those words out and down and put to task.

She'll reveal in it, even.  She is revealing in it, now.     

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