What I Found in my First Year of Writing
I've been thinking about some of the firsts in my life,
first trip to Paris
(I went with my French class when I was eight.)
(Kevin walked me home from school carrying my books. Yep, that was a thing.)
(I'll never tell)
first time I saw Mike
(He had his back to me, but I liked his broad shoulders, brown curls at the nape of his neck. And that laugh. We were in a RA meeting at our college dorm. He turned around. I slipped a note to my friend Phyllis. I should have been paying attention. Clearly I was.)
first time I saw each of my whippersnappers
(Mike and I were more bonded with each tender we brought home, a red-headed boy to Fulton St, a blonde girl to Pomona St, a blonde boy & a brunette girl both to Arnold St, all with blue eyes.)
first year of White Pitchers
my first Write 31 Days Challenge
9 "Things We Learned" community posts
1 filled commonplace book
more books than I can count
2 grand whippersnappers Crosby & Eliza
1 dog gone
And you were there to witness my fragile wings on their maiden flight.
One year ago I wrote,
"I held their challenge in my soul nest. The freckled shells were cracking open. I have written stories before and not called myself a writer. I have been writing poems and not calling myself a poet. It was time to fly."
In the beginning, you can see I was telling myself the way it is to share a dream. A bird is born to fly. What was I doing still in the nest?
One year later, I am still gathering courage and joy and words. There are bits of freckled shells on my spreading wings.
I am still learning courage by couraging.
Thank you Brene Brown.
I have an inkling this will always be part of what I do when I write, gathering courage, small by small, knocking back what Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance. I like to call it the Fray. Whatever you call it, it is against the wind you spread your wings and let your soul rise. All but One is against your flight.
And you don't have to be a writer to know it. Any art will take struggle and sweat, hope against hope, to be born, for life rends in the Fray. But that also means it opens up and gives you gifts.
This year I have glimpsed the fledgling writing that is worth all the struggle and the tattered wings.
As I confessed in my first post, I have written before and for a long time. I've written stories about faith blooming in others. I write poetry out of Scripture everyday. There's a whole book written with my friend Jenni. It is sitting in a file because,
well, she is gone.
And I miss the fire she brought to bear, a torch that might just burn you as light the way.
My first year at White Pitchers has taught me that writing is . . .
When I say writing is personal, I mean that it is shaping me inside and out.
Writing plus posting has changed my daily life. Gathering the courage to call myself a writer has given a new rhythm to my hours. Coffee, bible, bits of poetry, run/walk, family and work . . . those were already there. But now I return to my writing desk after getting outside, usually with a few more photos in my stream and the seeds of a post I want to write. Setting a regular time to plant those seeds, some for now and some for later, means together we'll see how they bloom.
The more I carved out writing time, the more I yearned for my own writing space. I started with a laptop on my knees and then moved to a corner by the window in Mike's study. These spaces both worked beautifully for awhile. Still, I had in mind a little more than a nook, a reminder to myself that I would be spending significant time there. I wanted space in both my heart and my home.
I had recently cleared out a bedroom and thanks to advice from the Cozy Minimalist a.k.a. the Nester, I let it rest fallow for a while. In the quiet I heard a whisper, "What if you took an entire room for writing?".
It had a window seat perfect for reading, so I just cozied up a spot for my morning coffee complete with little white pitcher.
While Mike was at work, I got Kyle to help me lug an oversized table upstairs. Typical me, we were quickly in over our heads. We got the table stuck navigating a corner and had to take off the legs to get it through the doorframe. But once the legs were back in place, we flipped it over and I added lamps and an old chair.
Voila! Here it is on day one.
I brought in stacks of books and a few items from shopping the house to inspire me. I sat down in the morning sun to write with a grin on my face.
Writing gets personal in more than just space. It helps me embrace the nuances of my life. I often sit here still and quiet in the rainfall of the Pacific Northwest with my Louisiana fingers on the keys, my Texas eyes closed. I bring the life I have lived, the people and places I have known to the writing page along with a string of hoped hopes and dreamed dreams.
Madeleine L'Engle says that at any given time, she is all the ages she has ever been. I like that thought. I can bring you years twelve, seventeen, thirty-five, fifty-four and everywhere in between. I can write from those ages all while still discovering new mercies.
Knowing I will write everyday, makes me pause and take notice more than ever. Inside or outside, I tilt my ear to listen, squint my eyes to see and rest my palm on my chest wondering what is beneath, knowing God is there and hoping all will rise and take to the sky.
Sometimes my view is right under my nose; dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, drifts of doggy hair around the water bowl now swept too clean and smiling drooly chins on the cutest grand whippersnappers in the whole world.
Other times my viewpoint is cleaner and further out on the horizon toward edges, rims and shorelines. I am witness to the places where waves and sky meet the land. I want to see where they touch. From all of these vanishing points, I return what I have seen to you in perspective.
When I say writing is excavation, I mean its not a surface endeavor. It is more like mining, descending down a rickety mineshaft hoping to bring up diamonds. But I don't want to go down there. I'm a canary and I might just find coal.
The same is true of digging around in my own heart and soul. Sooner or later I'm bound to meet my guts. (In my best Jimmy Fallon voice, "Ewwww!")
Then I remember Mem Fox says she tries to "write the guts" and I think that is the dig I am talking about.
I inhabit a female heart, freckled skin and a blue-eyed gaze. That's me.
Writing helps me rummage around in my soul and see what's accumulating inside. Clear out some cobwebs. It makes me admit to myself who I am beneath the skin with all of my nuances of doubt, a comparing heart and insecurities mixed with strengths.
This thing I call excavation helps my soul and then my writing be grounded and still take wing over the trees. Only then, with some hard-won acceptance, can my roots live together with wide open sky.
When I say writing is exposure, I mean in the process my heart gets unsheltered, exposed to the elements, wicked wind, burning sun, needled rain and a lonely starless sky out at sea. Writing can make me feel adrift in all of my flaws until I find I am mapping the oceans crying out for landfall.
Then the stars come out by name and light the sky and I am sheltered once more.
You will sense that unsheltering/sheltering pattern most when I write about autism, which has weathered deep contours in my heartland. It's coming in wind and eerie silence. It's wringing as much out of me to write about it as it did to live it. And I am needing more time than I thought to share that hurricane. But it's headed for land.
I find myself wanting to spare us both its uprooting path. But that is not my promise.
My promise is to pour out freckled grace; that Big Love coming through my skin, imperfect and spotty as it is. It took me a long time to accept my freckles. I mean really appreciate and be grateful for those speckled dots. My Daddy worked hard to help me knowing how they can be. Now I love 'em and just how the light shines through in patches.
That makes my promise personal, but it is a promise to both me and you.
I only know how to keep that promise by dipping into God's Big Love and writing about it. Grace is one of those beauties that no container can hold. Maybe if I write a tad every day, learning as I put my fingers to the keys, then I will have gifts to pour out when you come to visit.
Gifts of grace and hope.
I want to tell you of tried and true love, my plain faith, that there's a Jordan-side of heartache and in the springtime the faint whiff of lilacs will meet you at my front door. And if you come on in, we're bound to see together the always-surprising grace of God.
It's on my wing.
That's what I found in my first year of writing.