I recently decided to get back to
blogging, and I decided as part of that project, I needed to be consistent
about it. Sounds straightforward enough. But when it's suddenly May and chaos
has exploded into your life and your week is full of appointments and meetings
and a long to-do list that doesn't seem to be budging, the following thoughts
have stolen in as Thursday (i.e. blogging day) approached:
I could do it tomorrow.
I could skip this week.
No one will notice if it's late.
Why, again, do I need to be writing
Every post I've put up since
deciding to blog weekly has been written after kids went to bed or before they
woke up – so, not exactly easy to squeeze in. But this week is the first time I
really just didn't want to do it. And lined up reasons to excuse myself.
But, look at me! Here I am, showing up.
Because my desire to blog in part stems from the need to return to writing as a
creative practice. I'm happier when I'm writing. I have a fuller interior life
when I'm writing. Rhythm and consistency are not just about patting yourself on the back for
staying on schedule. There's a more important reason, one that Mary Oliver
articulates so perfectly in A Poetry Handbook:
If Romeo and
Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all
the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to
meet--one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere--there would have
been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and
celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different--it is a kind of possible
love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy
factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make
appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen.
Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to
keep them: count on it, nothing happens.
Gentle poets can twist the
knife better than any villain, no? "Count on it, nothing happens."
It's painful because it's true. And true of every kind of creative expression.
It's all too easy to say that I want to be writing, and I want to be doing more of my own artwork and projects, but work and kids and time and blah blah blah. And the weeks and month
march on, and I'm not amassing, little by little, the work I say I so
desperately want to be doing. So! It's ultimately time for me to stop excusing
myself and just decide to show up, rain or shine, good mood or foul, full of
thoughts to share or so empty I’m convinced nothing will come out. Because if
I'm holding up my part of the bargain, something WILL happen. It will. It
always does. Oliver continues:
The part of the psyche that works in
concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem--the heat
of a star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say--exists in a
mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious.
It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say you promise to
be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it
watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself--soon it begins to
arrive when you do. But if you are only there
sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or
it will not appear at all.
it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime.
Twist it a little more, Mary.
We're not bleeding enough yet.
When I was younger, I thought I
would die if I didn't write. I didn't understand how my life could be lived
without writing. This did not feel like dramatic or overblown emotion at the
time: it felt, simply, like fact. And then I grew up and worked and had kids
and all kinds of responsibilities that made my days full and my life
productive, and it occurred to me that I could go on that way forever without
ever writing another word, and I'd still survive and have a pretty darn good
life. And the world is full of extraordinary writers, and it would hardly cause the
tiniest ripple in the universe if I just… didn't.
And I do believe that, all of it. But I have also learned that
we shouldn't ignore the things that tug patiently and quietly at our
consciousness, and that even if the only person who cares about whatever
expression we long to express is ourselves, that's more than reason enough to
do the work. We are ultimately our most necessary and important projects, right? And maybe if we do honor those quiet and persistent longings, we will find and connect with others who appreciate our words.
At Ted Kooser’s eightieth birthday
celebration at Chapters Bookstore the week before last, I asked him if he ever
took a day off of writing. He doesn’t. He hasn’t. He has risen at 4:30 a.m.
every day for his entire adult life to write. He has shown up, consistently and
reliably, giving his metaphorical Romeo and Juliet a lifetime to
create romance and passion and drama. They have written thousands of poems! Nonfiction! Children’s
books! They have made magic, he and his date with himself, every single day. And it is
perhaps no surprise to see, in turn, the impact that his work has
had upon his readers and fans, who are legion.
All because he has shown up when
he decided to for sixty years. Surely I can do it for eight weeks.