March 6, 2014

A Writer’s Confession. ~ Caroline Mellor


“Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. Delay may give clearer light as to what is best to be done.”

~ Aaron Burr

Mine’s been a lifetime of tomorrows.

But today I shall begin.

Today I shall write.

At last, I write because it’s the only thing more scary than not writing.

Over the years I’ve become an artist at putting up barriers between myself and writing. The writing, so natural and free-flowing, which I loved as a child.

A formal education which all but killed my love of words. Learning to do something ‘useful’. Having a job. The breeze blocks of self-doubt and fear from which I deftly constructed a wall between myself and that which made my heart happy.

I told myself that it’s not what you do that matters, but how you are with people. I traveled, I studied, I fell in love. I lived. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t ready, that writing’s just another thing you do, in a world where we already do too much.

But I was lying and part of me was dying.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

~ Rumi

When I turned 30, I decided that this, now, was my time. I felt like I finally had something to say. I had the tools; I would begin.

Then I got pregnant—the ultimate card in my box of procrastination tricks.

My daughter engulfed my world. My heart opened in a way I could not have understood in my previous existence. Time was not my own any more, and life was richer for it.

And yet when I looked at her, at the curve of her cheek which is as beautiful as the moon, the perfect curl of her hair, the way she turns her face to the wind and I for a moment glimpse the woman she will become—the love for which I cannot find any words—I knew that I could not delay any longer.

I write, because it will break the cycle.

I write to set free.

I write because it honors the creative spirit within me and you which I know to be of vital importance. I write because I can, when so many cannot—the ancestresses whose wisdom was burned, drowned, smothered. The women around the world who are still denied access to the tools of literacy and self-expression which I have taken for granted all my life. My great, great-grandmothers who were too busy working, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, nursing the baby, stoking the fire.

More than all of this, I write simply because it feels good.

Mine’s a different kind of fire—but it still needs nurturing.

 “I’ve got to do something amazing or die. I’ve got to seize my power or be destroyed.” ~ Ben Okri

I arrange for my mother to take the baby one afternoon a week so that I can write. I am terrified that nothing will come of these afternoons—but the fear, once paralyzing, acts as a catalyst. The internet assures me that I am not alone: I find reams of advice, a correspondence course, tips on sending query letters to editors. And communities of other writers trying to find a quiet voice in a noisy world.

Within a month, I have produced an article and had it accepted for publication in a national magazine.

Then one afternoon in February, my mother takes the baby. I clear the table. I open my laptop. I take a shower, I buy baby clothes on ebay, mop the kitchen floor, make a bean stew, rearrange pots in the garden, sort the recycling, cut my toenails, stretch and stroke the cat.

I’m being hard on myself, the old voices, the old excuses remain. Not enough space. Not enough time. Nothing worth saying. Get a proper job!

How can the simple act of putting a few words on paper be so painful?

Then I go for a walk.

I walk fast, I stomp through puddles, I swing my arms.

I notice the daffodils pushing through the mud.

The snowdrops in the churchyard.

The half moon in the blue winter sky.

The willow tree which fell in the autumn storms but which is still alive.

A cluster of early-flowering irises.

I feel the white February sun on my face.

I go home.

And I begin.


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Editorial Assistant: Kimby Maxson / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: elephant journal archives

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Caroline Mellor