Writing is the balm that quiets my soul, mends my heart and orders my days. That has been the case for years, actually for decades of my life. It has often been the fuel that powers my struggles and triumphs and joys. Daily morning pages empty my mind of the accumulated clutter and produce a quietness and focus that propels me forward into each new twenty-four hour block. The days when that doesn’t happen lack the centeredness that I have come to depend on. Unfortunately those days have become more and more common over the last months. A notebook a month has been the long-standing goal with tidy stacks of twelve volumes each marking off the years, their multi-colored covers telling of the diversity of the moments stored within their pages. This year’s stack will be a shorter stack, missing volumes.
It isn’t that there has been less living in this year … quite the opposite, actually. There has been more, much more. It is that the living has been full of other things, more compelling things, dominated by the tyranny of the urgent. It isn’t that there are fewer words crying to find their way to paper; the words are still there screaming for release. But there are days when the path to the paper seems too long, too cluttered and too unimportant; those are the days that the words are tamped down, captive in the heart and mind.
Days of attempting to fit writing into orderly boxes dominated by word count goals have clouded my thoughts and slowed my fingers. The specter called “Grade Book” hovers over my shoulder, extinguishing each unique idea and merging my voice into one I don’t recognize … or always particularly care for. Topics filled with words like genetics, enclosure, monarchy and policies threaten to deprive me of all independent creative thought. I am learning, of that there is no question. Not only am I learning about topics that intrigue me, but I am learning more of the process of writing. Except where my heart used to overflow with words, now those words are dictated by concepts like content, organization, style, and mechanics. The experience that was once a spiritual journey has become an academic exercise. I know that it is an exercise that will aid in the journey when the time comes to resume my way along that path, but for today it is merely what needs to be done, one foot in front of the other.
The time will come when the words are allowed to flow freely again. Next year’s stack of journals will hold a full dozen volumes, with a full dozen months on the lines of their pages. Those volumes will not only carry the jumbled thoughts and stories of a mind allowed to wander freely, but also the appreciation of the freedom to simply write. And as an added bonus, as the words fill the pristine sheets, they will carry with them the knowledge gained in the interim. They will be more solid, more tightly written and more sure of themselves as pen meets page. The stories will have a more solid base, more focus on setting and character and a higher awareness of those who will read the words.
There are those who would say that discipline is the key. Wake earlier. Set aside blocks of time. Prioritize my activities. Sometimes those are words of wisdom … and sometimes they are only words. Each day can only hold so many moments and each moment only so many activities. Sometimes we must make difficult choices. So for now, I will study. I will focus on word counts and organization and mechanics. I will learn. I will expand my understanding of the craft of writing so that when the time comes for the words to flow freely again, they will flow in a richer and deeper pattern. Most of all, I will be thankful for the opportunity I have been given to be enriched by the learning of those things.
In the meantime, I am certain that this is how drowning must feel. Lungs too full of the wrong thing, too empty of the right and needed thing. Except this is my soul – full of noise, empty of light – grasping desperately for the feel of a new page beneath the pen in my hand. My soul knows, as always, that tomorrow is just around the corner and the blank pages will wait quietly for my return. Oh, and the words … the words will always be there.