Write Now Newsletter – April 2005

by | Apr 3, 2005 | Write Now Columbus Essay Archives

“I never gained control of my mind – how do you dominate an ocean? – but I began to form a relationship with it.” – Natalie Goldberg in Thunder & Lightning

Hi Writers

I am sad to report that my suffering around writing continues. I’m reminded of the “Warning!” in Thunder & Lightning in which Natalie explains that writing won’t save us or even begin to make us joyous. She cautions, “I have not seen writing lead to happiness in my friends’ lives.”

I wouldn’t exactly call myself unhappy, just tortured. I wouldn’t say that I’m miserable, just constantly searching for something unattainable. I’m always wondering, “Did I capture that moment?” and “Do they understand what I’m trying to say?” I don’t expect the yearning and wondering to ever completely leave me, but I continue to see my striving more clearly.

I’m learning more and more about my “monkey mind,” that little voice in my head that tries daily to convince me to give up writing and get a “real job.” The monkey mind I have around doing writing practice looks like a toddler compared to the energy it puts out when I begin to craft my words into stories and essays. I’ve attended many critiquing workshops where a student who could not take the voices in his own head, panicked when a teacher asked why he chose A over B in a story. I understand the need to take it slow, to be gentle with yourself in the early stages of tolerating editing.

I did writing practice until the urge to create something in a form welled up within my writing. This has taken nearly a decade. I let the writing tell me when it was time to go on. And if a class I took, a book I read, or someone’s comments on my work, scared me into wanting to quit, I went back to pure writing practice for awhile. I wrote and read aloud to others and asked for no comment. I read books in the genre I wanted to write and got used to the power of my voice. We each have to develop our own strong spine to take criticism.

We must also develop a willingness to let go of precious words in the service of the larger piece. In writing practice we honor every blot of ink on the page. There is no good and no bad. We learn to accept the whole mind and to read aloud all the “I don’t know what I’m doing’s” and the “what did I really mean to say’s.” But when it’s time to edit, everything that does not belong must go. It’s a sacrifice. My little gems, that darling turn of phrase, the most precious description will be the very thing I must remove to set the story free. It may feel like I’m cutting off my baby toe, but once its gone, I realize it wasn’t a toe, but just a lovely mole that made it hard to walk.

Wherever you are in this process, I urge you to continue. Whether you are writing or editing, publishing or stacking your private journals up on a shelf in the closet, this process requires more self-honesty than anything else you’ll ever do. Push yourself just a little, be gentle and brave, but regardless, continue. I cannot guarantee that writing will lead to happiness, but I can tell you that not writing is much worse.

Nita(It’s just my 19th nervous breakdown)Sweeney
(c)2005 by Nita Sweeney

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