Flatbush: A double exposure on the Diana F+. The B41 bus and One Plaza Street. Shot on 35mm film. When I first started talking about writing, my husband came home from a business trip with a couple gifts for me: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing. These are now two of my favorite books, but something really stood out to me when I read Bird by Bird for the first time.
Lamott describes her writing process and the writing life so vividly that it is painful at times. Her honesty provoked this thought: I've felt and thought those same things, and I thought it meant that I hated writing, but if everyone (or many enough others) feel and think that way and they are Writers, maybe I don't hate it. Maybe I'm just a writer.
Okay, typing it out like that makes it look pretty lame, but it felt very profound to me at the time. Reading Jen's post this morning reminds me of the ways we fantasize about people who we think are Really Doing It, and how they are probably more together, more mentally stable, more endowed with natural talent and confidence than ourselves. How life probably leaves them alone, and doesn't disturb their precious concentration with troubles at their kids' school, or relatives who are angry with them, or lay-offs. The part that really got me was when she wrote, "It’s okay to have serious doubts about your talents and abilities. Do your work anyway."
It's so obvious to me, I think because it's the water I swim in, that it's something I forget to say out loud. But then I remembered that I used to think and feel these same things and I thought it meant I hated writing--I thought everyone was floating on some cloud of bliss while their hands floated across the page in perfect script.
So let me just underscore this point today. I am plagued with serious doubts about my talents and abilities. Luckily I have safe friends with whom I can speak of these things--people who understand that these get stirred up when you take risks and practice vulnerability. If they didn't understand this, they would be convinced that I was mentally unwell. I swear it.
Here's another one: every day I sit down without A CLUE about what I'm going to write or to say. I stare out my window at the light or the dark or the snow or the sidewalk and try to start there somehow, but I'm sure I do the same avoid-that-blank-page shuffle that you do. Having young kids, I probably just do it for a shorter amount of time than some, viewing it now as a luxury and not a necessity.
Whatever storm you are standing in today, whether it's a storm of circumstances or one of doubt or confusion or fear, see if you can just stand in it. Watch how it touches you and how it joins you. See if by receiving it, you can see it transform. Not one of us is immune to the distraction of circumstances or the grating voice of doubt, but we can choose to see it as part of the package.
Here's a piece from yesterday, when I had nothing to say and only a gentle storm of snow outside my window. Happy Friday, everyone.