Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Vessel

I've been reading Natalie Goldberg's book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. With my A.D.D. these days I like the short sections that I can read for a few minutes, put down, and ponder. A lot of what she writes really resonates with me, but I can't get one paragraph out of my mind. It gives me cause for hope and terrifies me simultaneously. She writes:

"Don't identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black and white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture."

I love the idea that you are the vehicle for juicy ideas and well-crafted sentences. It means that if you are open, present, and practicing, good things can emerge from your pen at any moment. I read published writers say again and again that one of the most important things about writing is the actual sitting down to do it. From my own experience, it makes me crazy to have words floating around in my head instead of written on the page. And even when I don't feel particularly inspired, occasionally something comes out when I make myself sit down and give it a shot.
I wrote for a very long time, years and years of my life. I identified myself as a writer. And then I stopped. I didn't feel like I had anything to say that was worth reading. I'm sad for those wasted years. Who knows what "great moments going through" me I missed because I wasn't open enough, or brave enough, to try?

Goldberg's words send a little jolt of fear through me, though... who am I? I can't be those poems that I wrote all those years ago. I can't be the little girl sitting on a red slide at recess, writing a poem about my grandfather. Those moments came, and they were good, and they left. And they're not me now. I'm 32 years old, almost 33. I have to make the time and space for new great moments to come through.

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