family, garden, humor, motherhood, parenting, relationship, summer, words, writing

Writing Wisdom


Part of my excitement for/reservations about this school year is that Little Girl will be going, too.  My smallest fledgling will be learning to fly away from me.  This leaves me with a bitter sweet pride and a critical question: what am I going to do with nearly four hours alone everyday?

It’s not like I don’t always have something to do, the garden will keep me quite busy for a few months yet.  There’s endless maintenance and repair jobs around my old fixer-upper house.

I’m starting to long for another baby.  30 is staring me in the eye.  DD and I have, after 6 years, pulled our heads out and grown up, we are finally in a place in life where we could contemplate having another.  I love being his woman, tending his children.  We have a fairly traditional arrangement despite the totally non-traditional path of our relationship.  And I love it.

Yet we are not ready to just jump in either.  We are happy with our diaper-free life.  It is under consideration but we are not ready to actively pursue the idea yet.

And so, I will follow the other undeniable urge I have and write.

Rainer Maria Rilke offers the true test of a write in his Letters to a Young Poet.  I will paraphrase from memory here as this is something I took to heart as a teenage scribe.  A true writer has to write, cannot not write.

I have sometimes made it a few months without writing, sometimes struggled with not finding inspiration in the often dull life of just trying to get by and look after my kids.  But I have always come back to having to write, something, anything.  Lines of verse on scraps of old notebooks, blogs, essays, little stories, humorous lists, letters.  Sometimes I dislike this compulsion I have to scratch and scribble, type and tap, but I cannot ignore it or run from  it either.

Writing is much like motherhood for me.  I give birth to an arrangement of words, a set of ideas, and then part with them, no longer claiming them as part of me but letting them go and have a life of their own.  It breaks my heart while filling me with an intense love and longing.

The other bit of writing wisdom which has both driven me on in life and sent me down detours and dead ends is something a teacher at community college told me when I was 17.  She advised me to get out and do things, to go live some life and then come back and write when I had learned a few more stories.  In those days I spent much of my time sitting in smoky dinners and dark coffee houses, being a writer, of course.

In the 10+ years since then I have traveled and worked, loved and lost, survived and thrived.  And you know what?  Now I have much more to write about.  I discovered the blessings of birthing and raising children.  The dirty glory of gardening.  The abysmal funk of working day in and out as a designer in a factory.  I’ve been so homesick I couldn’t even take a shit.  I’ve spent months by a child’s hospital bed.  And the words do not want to remain unfertilized eggs dying with in me.  They want to develop, and grow.  They want to tell these stories, to pour out in raw, urgent poems.

Little Girl will get on that school bus and I will wave good bye.  Then I will go in and cry, grieving my baby being gone.  And after that I will have hours, uninterrupted, to write.  And when she comes home after her mornings away, I can celebrate with her, celebrate her as my beautiful little girl who’s growing up so fast.

How do life’s changes catch you?  What’s the writing wisdom that has stuck with you?  Inspired you?

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