A client was telling me not long ago that she wished she could write the way she was writing last fall. It had been a very fertile writing time for her. Writing every day, getting deep into core life issues she needed to address, feeling like she was really making progress in her writing practice and her writing skills. But that progress was born out of suffering. She was also going through a very emotionally tumultuous time, feeling frustrated and defeated, losing confidence in herself, and giving up some long-held ambitions. She was miserable–and in a very dark place. And, she was writing madly about the whole range of emotions she was experiencing.
So in this recent conversation with her, I was thrilled to see that the fog of last year had clearly lifted. She looked bright and radiant. She smiled beautifully. She has a new focus in her life, and she is moving forward with enthusiasm.
One problem, though: she’s not writing at all. “Now that I’m happy,” she asked me, “why can’t I write?”
Good question. But we’ve all been there, I’ll bet. We go through a period of confusion and suffering, and we sit at the computer and spill it all out. Explore it, analyze it, debate it, shape all that pain into poems and stories, meditations and essays. Emotional pain brings with it a desperate sense of urgency to stop the pain. And for many of us, writing does that. A life drama seems to act like a tuning fork, bringing us keenly alive to the subtle movements of mind and heart. And writing it all down seems to help. Seems to clarify. Seems to soothe and calm.
But when things are going well for us, when all is right with the world, we don’t feel so compelled to go to the page for solace. We no longer suffer with a big issue that needs to be resolved. That sense of urgency that pushed us to write is gone.
That’s when we most need a practice that kicks in and gets us in front of the computer anyway.
Needing a tumultuous life experience to motivate us to write is a sure sign that we have not yet refined our practice. To develop the skills and the stamina it takes to produce something good every once in a while, we need to be dedicated to practicing regularly. We need to be willing to sit in front of the computer even when we don’t have a ton of angst to spill onto the page. We need to sit in stillness and see what new and tiny insights rise up if we give those shy thoughts an opportunity to emerge. And yes, we need to be willing to let a whole lot of boring drivel come out, too. It’s just part of the deal.
Writing is never easy. But writing to soothe a broken heart or understand a baffling relationship can be a powerful motivation to express ideas, images, and feelings. And conversely, trying to eke out a few words when you feel like everything is just fine in this wonderful life can be brutal. But that daily effort is so necessary. Just like the athlete who gets up every morning to train, the writer, too, has to show up at her training station every day—no matter the level of internal motivation to write. You show up and you put your hands on the computer keys and you let words emerge. Every. Single. Day. This is the way we train.
You have the desire to be a good writer. You want to say something worthwhile. You know that creating something artful is not an accident but rather an intentional act. So today, re-establish a time and a space that will hold you in your practice. And if no dramatic life situation is catalyzing your imagination these days, that’s OK. Dedicate yourself to writing something boring. Yes! Give yourself permission to write something totally mundane. Recount your day. Make a to-do list. Describe the lovely rise and fall of your puppy’s tummy as she sleeps blissfully against your thigh. Write words for thirty minutes, and I’ll bet you anything, boring goes away.
From LifeArt Studio, this is Lezlie wishing you a very artful day!