This is a long quote, but worth a read:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
– Martha Graham
I’ve been struggling a bit with writing lately. I’ve had the first line of this post written for a while and so far that’s all there is. It still exists in the shadows and nothing has come forward to shed light on what I’m trying to express.
Writing is a function of time. And inspiration. And a topic. But it also, whether we want it to or not, gathers breath from our feeling of whether we have a place in this world of people who choose to express themselves through the written word. And lately I don’t.
I’ve lost my focus here, which seems to be a cyclical thing. Have I mentioned how cute and squishy my new baby is? I have? Well, that’s all I’ve got.
Except it’s not. I’ve got snippets popping up like the newest green shoots in the spring. I desperately want to feed them and give them light so I can see what they will turn into, but it’s not happening. I think some of them might be profound if only they would show themselves.
Where do writers’ words come from? Mine, when I have them, come from the moments I wouldn’t otherwise notice. They come from that space in the dark right before I fall asleep when I finally uncover the right phrase only to lose it when the daylight comes.
My words come from my past and, increasingly, from my present. I want to stretch them beyond that and find out, through my words and the messages they whisper, where I’m going in the future. But right now there’s just right now.
I have never lived so fully in the present, but I don’t mean that in a good way. My world is made up of tiredness, and have-I-had-a-shower-yet, and calculating when I last fed the baby. My future, such as it is, stretches only as far as tonight when I wonder if tonight might be the night he sleeps longer, and then I stop wondering that and try to focus on the opportunity feeding a baby gives me to do some middle-of-the-night reading.
In doing that reading by the light peering out from the bathroom (not too bright but enough to see) I have discovered new voices. And I have had the time to read old voices. I have been reading and reading some more and pondering. Reading Kindle books for which my impression was I can write better than that. I think. Reading online magazine articles and news stories. (Ditto.) And reading blogs.
It’s the blogs, I think, that are causing the problem. So many good writers with so many authentic voices. I read their words and I wonder where they come from. Not from time spent in the darkness with only a bathroom light and a sleepy baby for company, I suspect.
I write for me, people say. That’s all that matters. And I do too. And it is. But it’s not – not for anyone, I’d argue. I write stories that matter to me and maybe I shed a tear or two when it seems like no one else cares.
I still want those stories written down, but lately the stories aren’t appearing the way I want them to. The words aren’t right. Sometimes they’re not there at all.
But maybe I don’t have to believe. Maybe I have to live with my blessed unrest and keep marching and find the piece that keeps me alive.
Maybe I just have to write regardless.