Fancy permulate brilliant delicious ideas.
Chemo letter to my lover anything and everything.
Columbine shooting Boulder breaking through sizzling.
These are the words humming in the room just off of Colfax and Race Streets in the Milheim House (built in 1893) where I’m attending my first workshop, class, session – whatever you want to call it – to pursue writing.
Well, pursue writing at least a little more seriously.
I have all these journals and all these ideas and all these stories and all these people are sitting around the table and I’m thinking,
WHAT…? What am I doing?
Here in our classroom, we have ski instructors from Boulder, noteworthy people known for historical Colorado events, comedians, travelers, and a professor who is a trained writing therapist. Most excellent.
But in all seriousness, I put on a bold face because hey, I’m here to write, and if I really believe we all have stories worth sharing I might as well just hit the ground running.
I realize quickly what it is I want to write. What I deeply yearn to share about, to express, to reveal, and what’s important is that our teacher presses further.
Why don’t you write?
The honest answer, for me, was true on both sides of the equation (why I love writing and why sometimes I refuse to altogether):
I write because it’s the one place I feel safe to do so, and I refuse to write for the very same reason.
It’s scary to sit in a chair, with your pen and paper, and realize all of the tools sitting in front of you.
Yet, our teacher is attune to this – having experience in creative writing for years and years – and so she doesn’t let us simply escape this tension. We must call it for what it is.
After an hour of a couple of writing exercises and setting the format for the 4-week class, we address the battle of the “inner critic”. One woman calls it her, “inner bitch” and what I found interesting is that in a variety of contexts, we have a different name for the very thing that speaks hate into our lives.
It could be evil, negativity, self-loathing, the inner critic, doubt, or Satan himself, but it’s all there.
In writing, you might hear things like, “it’s been written before” or “really, writing? You think that’s a worthy pursuit?”
In my own exercise, I mapped out my conversation with my inner critic like this:
Heather: “It’s time. The story has already begun, and let’s be real, has never really closed – what if I just start to capture what that love meant?”
Inner Critic: “Oh okay. So, sit down. Flounder around with your tales of fetching water and banana trees. You have a blog full of those damn stories and they are getting old. Where is your new material?”
Heather: “You and I both know there’s a kind of process and storyline that has been left unwritten. Intentionally. Let’s go! Let’s shatter that fear and just write.”
Inner Critic: “How can you pretend that you’ll even remember the slightest details – the ones that will actually make the story meaningful? The ones that will help you even remember tell it at all?”
Heather: “I’ll take the very approach I took when I experienced it myself. I figured it out as I went along. And guess what? I still don’t have it all figured out – but there’s a certain release of that in writing. That’s what I want to choose. That kind of acceptance. In who I am as a writer. Someone who is honest.
Inner Critic: “Good luck with that.”
Heather: “You can sit over there when freedom, clarity, and depth come to service. Those boxes of journals that sit in my room? Those memories? Those ticket stubs of moto rides, international packages, and plane tickets? The letters? They meant something. They still do. They will be a weapon to destroy you. The catalyst to action. The reason I lift my story to a place of confidence, worth being shared. The experience will be enough to move past the brokenness you so deeply want to maintain.”
We don’t write for a lot of reasons. A lot of it has to do with fear, self-doubt, and a number of excuses that seem good enough. Tori Morrison herself said that she was often afraid to write her first sentence in any of her works because she was so concerned that the novel wouldn’t become the novel that she had dreamed it to be.
Towards the end of today’s session we had to share two things with the class:
- One thing that you learned about yourself as a writer, &
- A small writing goal that you are committing yourself to.
For the first point, I realized that I have hung on this “balance beam” of wanting to commit to writing – or not. I no longer want to be there, I want to be all in. I want to do this.
For the second, I am going to be reading through a couple of my journals a week and begin to pull ideas for what it is that I want to write. 2 journals per week will take me some time to work through, but I’m confident that much of the material is already there. Thank goodness for being an obsessive journaler.
The challenge is evolving from that – applying it.
I walked out of class with a girl who was quick to ask a few questions about some of the things I had said. I didn’t know why until she talked about being involved with ministry, dealing with a struggle that I mentioned during the session, and also living and serving in Romania for well over 2 years. I hastily said, “ah! Are you a Christian?” And she was, and I am, and as it turns out, so is our workshop teacher. Our teacher came from behind with open arms and simply gushed, “I knew you both were believers.”
Um, hello, parallels.
I want to know more, but I’ll have to wait until next week.
Until then, I’ll be practicing, doing these exercises, reading my journals, and maybe finally starting to take the leap into a different kind of approach to my writing.
Let’s see what happens.