Today, I have a whole lot of family concern on my mind; it’s much harder to sit down and allow myself to concentrate on writing. Worry worms its way back into my thoughts. It takes courage to allow long term concerns to drop into the background and focus here. What I have learned is I can pick up and shoulder my problems any time I choose. But if I don’t give myself the opportunity to write, a different anxiety builds, and thriving suffers.
When I’m worried, my mind feels empty of material. I doubt the easy flow of words on the screen will ever return–even though I’ve been through similar experiences myriad times.
So I’m late coming to my computer today; it’s almost 11 pm instead of the usual 10 pm starting time. But I got here! That’s what counts. I plunked my butt in the chair, and faced the keyboard and the shocking, empty page.
I keep a running checklist of possible prompts for blog posts. (And another of possible scenes for my novel.) I’ll allow myself to choose any one of them, but “courage” was next in the list, and clearly, I need to rediscover it.
Once I started typing–do we have to call it keyboarding now?–my body calmed. Eventually, focus narrowed to the subject at hand. Now, a half hour later, I have 265 words on the page. It’s true, I am not a fast writer–but that doesn’t matter, because I’m steady. I show up. I managed the first draft of a novel in fourteen months. In my lexicon, that’s courage.
© Skye Blaine, 2015
Filed under Musings, writing
I’ve done a fair amount of research on the internet for my novel–I’ve checked into leg prosthetics, PTSD, cortical blindness, and “cane travelers”–the proper use of a white cane. I explored possible names for Afghani children, and the kinds of typical family compounds in Afghanistan.
But there is still research needed that can only be done on the ground. I need to return to Oregon, both Eugene and Sisters, to check where I’ve set my story. Sure, I inquired into what plants grow in central Oregon, and used Google Earth to figure out where the large, rural ranch might be located. I spoke to a wildlife specialist about the behavior of cougars. I’m always delighted by how friendly and helpful people are when I contact them.
But nothing takes the place of sniffing the air, feeling the plants, and talking to the people who actually live there. In Sisters, there are five places I need to go: Sisters Inn, Martolli’s Pizza, Paulina Springs Books, the feed store. And I need to drive out the road I’ve picked for the ranch to see if it’s actually possible to set part of my story there. If not, I’ll talk to the residents and figure out a different location.
I’m sorry I can’t go to Afghanistan and taste the dust. My budget doesn’t allow for that.
Sometime in 2015, I need to schedule the Oregon trip.
© Skye Blaine, 2015
My old friend Margaret Barkley wrote this poem about the writing process. I asked her if I could share it here. Please do not forward it on without her permission.
Fistfuls of Heart
If everyone has something to say,
how is a writer different?
The desire to write, to commit words to paper,
is like deciding to let your own arm reach
down your throat
and muck about with your insides,
grabbing fistfuls of heart, teeth, and
and pull it out for everyone to see.
And I wonder why I have
Just sit in the chair, they say.
And I do, but I’m dodgy about it.
There is always something safer to do,
like laundry, for example,
that extracts no blood at all.
Maybe all prophets and storytellers
are reluctant – I don’t know about that –
but I know that there comes a time
when there is a clamor of words in order
from within, saying –
Hey, write me down!
and they harass me till I do.
© Margaret Barkley, April 16, 2015
Recently, in my Friday afternoon memoir group, our leader, Steve Boga, read a piece detailing the research and the health benefits for people who write about difficult passages in their lives. Please check out the article written last year by Rachel Grate for the full story. In brief, writing reduces depression, lowers blood pressure, and people who write spend less time in hospitals.
I have discovered another amazing outcome of memoir writing: reflecting back, even on events that occurred long ago, can catalyze life-changing epiphanies. In my experience, these insights don’t arrive until we have the capacity–and perhaps the willingness, even if it is unconscious–to welcome them.
I think of it this way: I write myself alive.
© Skye Blaine, 2015