July 21, 2011

Why I open my veins.

photo: fashionromance

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Red Smith

Writing is something I’ve done since I can remember. My first journal had a shiny gold lock. As if a 6-year old had dark secrets. The lock allowed me to say what was really going on in my life and mind. Like opening up about what I ate for breakfast. Or the fact that Susie and Carol were playing without me. With the little people that I invented. How dare they! My fictional stories in grade school were always read in front of the classroom — even during my Hippie Palace phase — and I could cram a college paper into a night and still get an A. In my twenties, my heinous blind date story was published in the Tribune. At work, my internal memos, client letters and, later, marketing proposals were praised. Hell, I eventually got paid six figures!

Those six figure days are long gone. But my writing lives on.  I love/hate to write. I have a list ten miles long of subjects and experiences I want to write about. And, of course, I’d love to write a novel and make millions. Instead I mostly just write and mostly don’t get paid unless it’s a marketing project. Some just don’t get why I spend my time writing if there’s not cash involved. Same reason I sit down at the piano and play Mozart.

I want to write and call myself a writer. But I procrastinate. Will it be good enough? Will it get read? What if it sucks? What if nobody cares? Why bother? Other things like removing a piece of fluff from my elbow or staring at the shifting leaves that  touch the sky or the silly, bouncy squirrel seem to take precedence. Of course I have the excuse of being a mom and having to put some chicken nuggets in the oven. But then the words start to itch and I have a primal need to release them from my body lest they eat me alive from the inside out.

I make more sense when I write. My verbal communication can be illogical. If non sequitor was a country I’d be the queen. I’m a quiet talker, sometimes I mumble. When the words have to come out of my mouth, I use them with less confidence. Fear of stumbling. Hence the mumbling. Or maybe my mouth looks funny when I talk. My lips are thin. Writing allows me to say it and say it with conviction and logic. And I can edit. And nobody can ponder how a person could possibly have such thin lips. (Side note: My mouth has been a focal point for many throughout my life—a story in itself—so I cannot help but be a bit self-conscious about it).

While I’d prefer more people read the save-the-planet/save-ourselves pieces, people — that means you, reader— seem to latch onto the ones that have required me to open a vein or two: the first visit with my brother; my fear of speaking; the pain of infertility; marital issues; struggles with what I wear; getting older; addiction.

We’re not sheep lice.

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. ~ Anne Lamott

Writing helps me understand myself. And when I share those words, an amazing thing happens. Other people tell me that’s happened to them. Or I’ve inspired them. Touched them or even made a difference in someone’s life. And, quite honestly, I’m lifted up when people tell me I did a good job. That I’m a wonderful writer. I’m a sucker for that!

It’s not easy. Staring at a blank screen is inevitable. But then somehow, magically, the letters form into words into thoughts and, before I know it, I’ve said something. And I feel better and my world makes more sense to me.

I love writing. And I’m grateful to you who read my words. Even more grateful to those who provide feedback. That puts the blood back in my veins so I can write more.

Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter. ~Jessamyn West

P.S. Special loving thanks to Waylon and elephant journal for the chance to share my stories.

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