Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Releasing the Story

Sometimes I think about the journey I’ve taken from *there to here* and I want to tell the whole thing. I want to detail the fall and the stumble and the final moment when I uprighted myself and, though exhausted, dragged myself across the distance to become the person I wanted to become. I want to tell the whole story of meeting someone who rocked my world and expose every nuance and emotion and ponder it endlessly for you. But I think there are really good reasons that I haven’t done this, one of the largest of which is that in the pondering there is the possibility of becoming stuck. While my world has been busy being rocked, the last thing I’ve wanted to do is ponder it or write about it. I want to FEEL it, to experience every last drop of it, to pour it all over myself and roll on the ground in it like a dog. I want the experience to mark me with its scent.

Being a writer is a strange experience because if you’re not writing, you’re not exactly a writer. But often when you’re writing, you’re not living. You’re holed up alone with your laptop or your pen or whatever instruments of writing torture make you tingle. You shun the world and immerse yourself in a narrow tunnel of your own thoughts and characters and ideas and emotions. You cull and you trim and you think and rethink until your mind is numb. Then you go back and do it all over again. But you’re not out living, per se, at least not as much as you could be. The writing takes some of your life from you. It needs to in order to give birth to itself. And in not allowing the thoughts that space and time to come out, it will render you incapacitated. The creations trapped inside the artist will eventually kill the artist if not given an escape route. So I find myself in a constant tug of war between writing and living. I can’t seem to do both at once. And when I can, I find I’m doing them both half-assed, which is not something I take pride in.

I wonder about writers who actually write for a living, as opposed to someone like me, who writes, if for no other reason, than to stay alive. What is it like to discipline yourself to sit down day after day and write, while maintaining the rest of life around you? Where do you find ideas to write about while life is busy going on around you?  How do you revel in the flow? How can you meet deadlines for editors if your creativity is on temporary hiatus? How do you avoid garnering that ‘artistic temperament’ label from those close to you when you’re pouring your soul into your work every single day?

There is a collection of books called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It began with the simple book itself and has launched into a phenom all its own. But the basic ideas are there for soulful artists to attempt to reign in their craft and become disciplined enough to learn how to make a living doing it. If nothing else, she shows how artists can relieve the pain of keeping everything locked inside by using disciplined artistic outbursts. As someone who is tired of holding it in and who is tired of working at jobs for which I have no love, I take this very seriously.  I maintain the belief that there must be a way to do what I love while a) earning a living at it and b) not losing my mind in the process.

So here I sit. The story is ready to tell itself. It’s been waiting for release from this cage I keep it in. It’s starting to burst forth in the form of little holes piercing the dam of my resistance. I’ve had my fingers plugging everything shut. Now it’s time to let go and let it pour. 


  1. I look forward to not having enough money to get your book from Chapters.

    I have been trying since High School to let this spy novel out. Instead I wrote a short story in a fantasy world, lead to a second, ideas for a third, became a novel, now a trilogy.

    The spy novel wants a sequel before I even get the first restarted. Why do the ideas come when I'm trying to sleep?

  2. Write. That's what my writing partner said to me and he was right. You have such an amazing insight into life and I would read anything you put to paper (or net!).

    And that's the truth. I think this is the year for us to get together and talk about this stuff. I mean it.

  3. Let it out, Eileen. Everything else will still be there when you emerge from the Cave of Writing. And you will then have your story out of your head and on the page. Let it out.