Two years ago, when I started this blog, I felt guilty calling myself a writer. I worried people would laugh at me, not take me seriously. I had to talk myself up each and every time I hit “publish” and put my work out into the world.
Fast forward two years to this September. I started a new memoir writing class with my friend and mentor Marion Roach Smith. I committed to finally working, really working, on the book – the book I promised my late sister Mary Jane I would write. I wrote daily, sharing my work each month with the others in my class. Finally I felt comfortable saying the words, “I am a writer!”
Confession time: I haven’t written in two weeks. Life has a way of changing the best laid plans. At least, it always seems to happen to me.
My beloved father passed away on December 14th, giving me a healthy dose of perspective just as I was starting to get mired in pre-holiday stress. In an instant, I went from “How will I ever get the rest of my cookies done?” to “How will I get home to Mom and my sisters?”
After the funeral, the family gatherings, the tears and the laughter, there was still Christmas. And work. And life. And a book still waiting to be written.
That is how it happens. We gather with loved ones to offer comfort and share memories. Then, we return to our new normal and try to make our grieving selves fit back into our prior routines.
Somehow, I never manage to fit.
When my sister Mary Jane passed away five years ago today, I learned how easy it was for me to cultivate a relationship with grief. At the time, I wasn’t aware it was what I was doing. Now, I recognize the listlessness and lack of focus.
I am on vacation this week. Once again, my sister Caroline has agreed to let me crash at her house for the week. It was supposed to be a week of writing, crochet and relaxation.
Every day this week I have sat to write, and nothing has come. Well-meaning friends have offered me encouragement. Just journal. Write to a prompt. Set a timer and write for just ten minutes.
I started this post two days ago. Today, because I made Mary Jane a promise and I always try to keep my promises, I am finishing something – anything – just to say I am writing.
I know enough to know that I need to listen to myself when I don’t have the will to write. It is fine to take a break, to grieve, to allow myself to retreat and take a respite.
The trick is to not encourage myself to stay in that dark place, to not allow my voice to dwell in the grief and sadness in my heart. Even though I may want to sit and mourn, I know how easy it is to become mired in the sorrow and not move forward towards the goal.
I am a writer. It is what I do to help process the world around me. I think in words, stringing thoughts together in my head whenever I have moments to myself. When I don’t write, I feel like part of me is not fully functioning.
My goal today was to write a post and get it up – no matter how long, even if I think it’s crap. My goal tomorrow is to write 750 words about my experiences as a former poster child.
Goals are good. They provide focus when you feel lost. They can be modified when life throws you curves. Sharing goals helps me remain accountable. Hence, I state them here so I know someone else is aware of my plan.
I’m not thinking beyond this week. I’ll spend the next few days playing with my sister’s dogs and crocheting in front of the fireplace.
But come next week, I’ll write again. Because I am a writer. And writers write.