Keeping the Channel Open

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.



  1. This post has so much beauty in it Robin. The words danced. They were like carefree souls twirling and moving in synchronicity to a silent rhythm that I could not hear but that I could see.

    Your words resonated with me so deeply as I’ve been struggling since April to just write. It seems so easy to say yet following through seems so daunting sometimes.

    Is what I write good enough? Is anyone going to even read it? If they are my thoughts so I really need to capture them? Can’t I just recall them when I want to? Will my thoughts be judged by others? So much pressure we put on ourselves based on “what ifs” that it paralyzes us from taking forward action.

    Don’t let your voice fall silent. It resonates much deeper than you might even realize and connects us so that we’re not making this journey alone.

  2. I’ve been feeling this, all of this, for a while now. I want to write. In theory. But the actual writing part? Is hard. And scary. And not at the top of my list of priorities. And sometimes, I think that’s a good thing, but sometimes I know that I really need to just do it.

    I’m so glad you’re writing. Your words matter. The part of you that holds these words matters. And I will be here waiting for more words. No pressure.

  3. “no artist is pleased,” so true. Lovely post.

  4. Robin, your voice matters. Your voice and your story helped save me. When I had no hope, your voice and your story was that helping hand showing me the light at the end of the tunnel. I have struggled with finding the time to write. I have drafts and notes all over, but I just need to find that elusive time. The more I read or hear stories, the more I examine my own writing and become paralyzed. What if it’s not good enough? Did I not draw a conclusion? I’m a work in progress.

    • That’s my problem – my own writing as compared to other stuff I read. I’m trying to embrace my voice, whatever it is in the moment, but that’s not always easy.

  5. I love this. And so get this, Robin. I have lots of snippets waiting to take seed, but they never seem to grow, and I don’t know what to do with them. Lately, I’ve just been turning them into Facebook statuses, which means they die a slow death.

    I’m going to keep plugging away, as should you :)

  6. I’ve been in the same funk of late – can totally relate. Patience, my friend. Also, sleep. :)

  7. I’ve been in the same funk lately. I *think* I know what’s been causing mine, but I can’t tell for sure. All I know is that I’m there with you. And your words? They matter. So much.

    • I wish I knew what was causing mine, other than sleep deprivation. And you always seem to express yourself so well, funk or no funk. Just keep going, right?

  8. Keep writing :) I think sometimes our voices go into hibernation when our stories are shifting, and it’s just practice and staying with it that helps us find them again. xo

    • That was a total light bulb for me. When my story shifts I definitely lose my voice for a while. My brain works overtime but I’ve got nothing well formed. Thank you for that insight. xo

  9. Oh, the irony! Your piece about being unable to write is one of the most beautifully written, authentic posts I’ve read. My advice? Enjoy your baby. Breathe. Collect seeds. When it rains, the seeds will grow. There’s no train to catch.

    So pleased I’ve discovered your blog :)

  10. You know that I understand every single word of this. Every.single.word. The truth is that your voice–whether you are sharing those moments of the past, or baby squeezes, is beautiful–and is a gift. I do feel like we ebb and flow on our blogs, like we do in our lives. Selfishly I hope you keep writing…but only you can truly make that decision. xo

  11. Love that opening quote. I needed to read that today!

  12. This spoke to me so strongly and to some of my struggles lately. We have to keep it open, yes, and also accept when there’s nothing coming through.

    • I actually think sometimes it’s hard when something significant has happened, as I know is the case with you too. It feels as though we should be able to eloquently and perfectly capture the momentousness of it, but that’s not easy. Especially when both our hearts and minds are struggling to process it. For what it’s worth, I think your writing is always beautiful and profound, Stacey.

  13. loved reading this as i sometimes wonder if i will ever write like i want, ever have the space i want and ever have the audience i want. then i always think what is this all for anyways? who cares what i have to say? you hit it here and thank you. ps: i get most of my inspiration while either driving {when i zone out i write entire posts in my head then they are gone poof!}, while doing dishes {again i zone out there too} and while walking the dog. i think the theme here is zoning out all the kids business and loudness. problem is i never have the time to write most of them down so i am left with snippets – i lose the good stuff. i think i need a stenographer! ha! i could just speak them out loud and they are captured. okay if i win the lottery i want…..

    • Totally! I get fantastic posts going when I walk my dog and when I run (or used to – haven’t since getting pregnant last year). It does help to have all the usual noise fade away.

  14. I think we all go through periods of struggling with words. I know I have many times. Just keep writing, even if you don’t post your words. It will come back to you.

  15. This so speaks to me right now. xo

  16. Hang in there, girl. You’re so in the thick of things right now.

    Your words are there, always will be.

    And once you’re past survival {and omg sleep!} they’ll sprout again.

  17. Such a beautiful piece! I get it, and your words just resonate with me. Hang in there, we’ll both be okay :)

  18. I agree that there is definitely an ebb and flow. Sometimes I’m so inspired and I wake up with 3 ideas in my head of posts/stories, etc. and I get to typing as fast as my fingers can fly and then sometimes I sit staring at the cursor.

    You’ll get your mojo back. But I know it’s hard to go through the times when it seems stagnant. Just hang on, it WILL be back!! :)

  19. This speaks to me in ways that I do not have words to describe. Which may be ironic.

  20. Oh my, I have been there and I am trying to dig my way out so I suppose I still am there. Trying to organize my thoughts into something that makes sense. I listened to a writer talk about writing words that no one would ever read being very freeing. I am trying it for 10-15 minutes in the morning (she suggested more like 30 but yeah right!) and it is helping. Some of the daily noise that keeps me from writing that brilliant piece in my head comes out and goes away. Please continue to write. Your words are there. With time and sleep and patience it will be back!