Over the past several years, I’ve written for my Self and my Soul. I’ve written to grow, to heal, and to plunge deeper into my own interior until I figured out what it was that needed to be healed. I’ve pushed away fiction writing for journaling, and now those journal entries are finding their way into a non-traditional nonfiction project.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with the next phase of my life, and it’s becoming clearer that I want to teach more. I’m toying with the idea of teaching a class on writing and healing. I don’t think it’s something that I’ll end up teaching on my campus, but I do think it’s an important topic, and, possibly, something that could be taught in continuing education programs or at community literary arts centers.
I have a few ideas in mind, but I want to put these questions out there (to the four or five people who read my blog): If you were going to take a class on writing and healing, what would you want to get out of it? What would you hope to learn/do/accomplish?
Writers are pricks.
Of course, I’m not one of them. I’m barely a writer. That is, when you compare my process and body of work to them, I’m barely a writer.
So I guess that means I’m not really a prick, which is good, because I was among a bunch of pricks on Saturday and all I kept thinking was I don’t like these people. I wish they’d just shut up so I could get back to writing. Fuckin’ pricks.
I felt very uncomfortable.
Seattle7Writers is a group of (published/successful) people who do good things for good people. They host fundraisers—like the one I went to on Saturday, called Write Here, Write Now—and they give the proceeds to literacy organizations. That was a huge incentive to participate in the event. Write Here, Write Now is an all-day writers’ conference, but it’s not really a conference. You listen to a ten minute talk on writing, then the clock starts and you write for 45 minutes. The buzzer rings and you stop. Take a five minute break, listen to another writer talk about something else and repeat. All in the company of 100+ strangers.
I wrote hard. If you could break out in a sweat from writing so hard I would have. I would’ve reeked of B.O. by the end of the day. Thankfully, that’s not possible, so I went home smelling roughly the same way I smelled when I left. (Except for the fact that, walking to the car, I opened my coffee cup to dump the remains on the sidewalk and instead spilled it all over my hoodie. So I reeked of stale coffee—the B.O. of a writer, maybe.)
The day really was productive. I wrote more than I’ve written in quite a while and, most importantly, I walked away fired up, ready to write and write and write myself into a new life.
I want to go ZOOM, as my friend Ant would say. I feel like I’m on a precipice, ready to jump into something big.
But I’m stuck. I don’t know what that Something Big is. I don’t know what I want to do exactly. I know this: I want creative stimulation. I want to be among writers. I want to teach fiction writing. I want to live the writer’s life. All without becoming a prick.
At the event on Saturday I heard author after author say the same thing: if you want to be successful (e.g. published and widely read), you have to write every day. You have to make space for yourself. And if you want to be even better, you have to commit yourself to your writing full time.
They spoke, of course, from places of great privilege. And that’s one reason they’re pricks.
They were all very happy with themselves, very proud of what they’d accomplished. And I don’t blame them; I’d be pretty damn proud of myself if I was on the NYT bestseller list.
But I’d also be pretty damn proud of myself if I was self-published, if my work was being read on a Kindle in by someone in a coffee shop somewhere (in spite of how much I dislike e-readers). I’d be pretty damn proud if I got an acceptance somewhere. I’d be pretty damn proud if I had a finished project to send out. I’d be pretty damn proud if I wrote every single day. I’d be proud if I built a desk for myself and sat at it four days a week and wrote.
I’m pretty damn proud of myself for going to that event, for writing in 45-minute bursts, for producing so much, for getting so fired up, for recognizing who I am and what I want to be.
I’m pretty damn proud of myself for recognizing what a prick is and knowing that I don’t want to be one.
The fucking end.
This is hard.
Writing is hard.
I’m trying, really trying, to do it. I’ve failed at it far too many times.
I began this year with a success. A minor one, but still. “Salt” has been conditionally accepted for publication. I futzed with it and tinkered with it and then labored over it today and I just sent off a revised version. And I’m left wondering what the hell I’m doing with this form. I have no idea how to write haiku. Prose poetry I get—I think. But haibun? It’s hard. Writing haibun is hard.
So I’m stuck. Do I continue on with the form and revise later, or shift into something else and hope I can get it right? I’m worrying too much about form now, and content has taken a back seat.
I have a headache.
This is hard.
Writing is hard.
I found this piece I began a few weeks or maybe a couple months ago and it ties in to all I’ve been thinking about lately: to a career change, a new path, settling, wanting.
When Petey gets all hyper and his wagging and panting get the best of him, I tell him to settle in. And what I mean by that—that is, what I want him to do—is sit still and enjoy whatever it is he’s enjoying peacefully and calmly. Of course, Petey is a dog and he doesn’t always get that, so he jumps and wags and pants and smiles and sometimes he barks. And that’s mostly okay with me, because I know he’s doing what feels right to him and he’s happy.
I’ve been doing a lot of the same sort of thing. Not jumping or barking or wagging, but running amok, doing, moving, and not sitting very still. J and I have officially moved in together. Her stuff is in my house which is now our house and her stuff touches mine and my stuff touches hers, and in all of this our stuff has become Our Stuff and our place has become Our Place. If we could wag our tails about all of this we probably would. We’re pretty happy, J and I.
For the first couple of months we tried to make what was once my place into our place. This has been very important to us, and we’ve worked hard to make all kinds of physical changes to our shared space. We painted, we cleaned, we rearranged, we organized. We created this sort of merger, where dog lives with cats, where girlfriend lives with girlfriend, where there is much mayhem, and much peace.
The past couple of months has brought us a lot of peace. We revel in it.
I was talking to K a few weeks ago and she starting comparing my story to birds. K is a birder and she often finds a bird analogy for whatever is going on in my life. I kind of like that. Anyway, she noted that J and I are nesting and that led her to tell me about raptors and herons and a few other types of birds that mate for life. This is how their lives go: they build a nest and settle in. The female gets pregnant and later she lays eggs and later the eggs hatch and the babies go off on their own. Then the couple take stock of their nest. They poke around it and rearrange things and rebuild where it needs to be rebuilt and they generally prepare for the next cycle. More eggs. More babies.
The cycle continues. Always the nesting. Always the settling, and then the mayhem, and then the rebuilding.
I think it’s a pretty beautiful thing. Two beings so caught up in life, so in tune with their own rhythms. The way K described it made it sound easy and peaceful, like that’s just what you do if you’re a bird who mates for life. You go through the cycle with your partner. You come together and create a family and say goodbye to your offspring and you take stock of your home and make it yours before you go through the process again. This is a life. This is what they do.
I think of my life with J as a process. I hope it doesn’t involve as much painting and organizing as we’ve done over the past couple months, but I know that it will involve mayhem and peace and rebuilding many times over.
We had a housewarming a couple months ago, and we welcomed our closest friends and our chosen family. And when they left we settled in on the couch and breathed and looked around at what we’d created. A home that is ours. A space that we both feel comfortable in, that we both wake up in and come home to each day.
But this isn’t about settling into a home. It’s not about settling on a couch next to the woman I love. It’s not about settling into a recognition that I’ve begun a life with the woman I love.
As K talked about birds and how they nest and breed and rebuild, I realized that’s very much what my life has been like—is like. There’s a building, and then an unsettling thing, and then a period in which I take stock. And then I rebuild.
I’ve been seeing K for just over eight years and in that time I’ve paid her thousands of dollars so that she’ll listen to me and help me figure out why these things happen and how to take stock and what to take stock of and how to rebuild and what materials to use and how to know that what I’ve built will be solid and firm and comfortable. And what to do when what I’ve built springs a leak or begins to crumble.
I’ve come to this point in my life where I feel completely settled. I know this is not entirely true; I know that I’m not completely settled, and that I never will be. I recognize—and very much am in love with –life’s process.
But here’s the thing: tonight, in therapy, I ran out of things to talk about. I came to the conclusion that my life is good, that there are no unsettling things, that I have no more struggles, nothing, really to work on. I’ve done quite a bit in these years and I have found this place where my life resides, where I am my most essential me, where I can be and am settled.
Coming out to my family was the last big obstacle, and I’m quite proud to say that I’ve done it and it worked out quite well. I’m lucky that way.
And now that that’s over with and the home J and I have made is put together and the dog and the cats are beginning to peacefully coexist, I am breathing and resting and looking around and taking stock of it all. I am settling into this sort of quiet contentedness that comes after taking on years and years of work on my Self.
And I know that this is not an end, and certainly not The End. There will be strife, there will be struggle, there will be reason to go back to K and pay her much money so she will listen to me and help me figure it all out. But for now, in this moment, sitting here on a Thursday night with a belly full of the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever had, I want to go home and snuggle up to my woman, I am content. I am settled. I am loving this little life of mine.