Winding my way up Highway 1, I cursed the car in front of me that my mamita would have called a “slowpo”. I was on a tight deadline to get to my meditation cushion at a buddhist temple and rest my mind. When I reached the fork in the road, I saw a big DETOUR sign and knew I could not get there in time. Taking the right fork, I zigzagged down to Muir Woods. Why not? I hadn’t been there in years, it was the door that was open, and I was early enough to find parking. As is so often true, la naturaleza evoked a different meditation on the life of a writer.
The pain will burn in us and around us, leaving our scars and vulnerabilities exposed on the page. And yet we continue, allowing the hot spots time to cool down enough for us to write the next words. Our fears heal into a fierce trunk that supports the next scene, layer upon layer strengthening our resolve.
We write and write and edit and get feedback and re-do until we have too many words, too many options, too much debris to see the story that needs to be pulled out from among the tangle of our mind and heart, but we do not stop.
LIFE AND DEATH
We know intimately that life and death is one big word and one amazing ride. We know we are blessed with this wisdom and to keep it to ourselves would be selfish and unfair.
As in writing venues and in the publishing world, stories are decided by those with the power who try to control the narrative. We control our narratives and we write to expand the canon for children who come after us. We write the stories we want to read.
COAT PAIN WITH COMPASSION
I remember the day I understood why writers drink and drug in excess; why they decide to end their own lives. What we write is not Hallmark. It is the marrow of our bones and it requires more compassion toward ourselves than we ever give.
One minute you are writing about a redwood and then you are knee deep in a single fern frond, detailing each of its delicate green fingers that reached out and lured you in. You smile at the audacity of art.
EDIT OUT YOUR DARLINGS
There should be a day when we all get up and just read the beautiful scenes and dialogue and descriptions that we left on the cutting board because they did not, no matter how we tried, move the story forward. Beautiful language in and of itself, we learn in despair, is not enough for a long-term relationship.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
The way the leaf shines, the cool touch of the moss, the tiny chocolate pinecone that did not settle into moist earth. The little bits of dark, rick soil that teems with microbes and teeny, tiny bugs.
RIP OUT WHAT YOU BELIEVED TO BE TRUE
To find the treasure means to release what you believed was the treasure, the false idols of always and forever, the fear that says you will never be good enough, the seeking of external validation when you know it will only taunt your tender heart.
SLOW DOWN WHEN THE PATH NARROWS
There are times when options seem narrow and you want to move quickly past the tightening in your chest. Those times when rejections fly fast and your edits don’t work, and you are encouraged to start all over with a new structure. Slow down so you don’t stub your toe on pride or stubbornness.
LOOK FOR FLOW
There is always flow in your writing life. Sometimes the writing has to stop to read marvelous literature that inspires and reminds us why we do what we do. Sometimes scanning the landscape and breathing deeply helps us notice the water that is moving just beyond our broken sentence structure and impossible to find perfect adjective.
Writers love to roam where we are told not to go to tell the stories that others are waiting to read. Tírate. Go ahead, do it. Find the loamy earth, put your ear in the dirt, and listen to her heartbeat, know it is yours as well. Scare your brave self with even more daring. Be the atrevida we love and admire.
We write alone but we draw strength from knowing others are putting pen to paper, finger to keys, their energy reaching out toward us. One day they pull us up, the next day we inspire them and the cycle goes on and on, spiraling upward to the vastness beyond our single view. #52essays2017