January 21, 2014
Mindfulness and Writing Part I
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. I remember tapping out notes and stories written to my mother on the suitcase style typewriter we owned. It was the color of a maize crayon and was peppered with fingerprints and ink. The keys had a tension to them that made each stroke feel powerful. Plus, I loved the tinny smell of typewriter ribbon.
As I grew older, I began to feel that writing held this amazing power. I could get lost in thought, hearing the voices and sounds of the places I wrote about until they were so real that the stories began to tell themselves. I was often surprised by how plots evolved and characters I thought I knew, suddenly changed perspective.
This was the magic of writing and I still love it. But as this magic grew, darkness also snuck in. I think my internal editor said hello for the first time when I was in the seventh grade. I was pimply, awkwardly thin, and had no sense of fashion or good sense. As I sat in my seventh grade English class, carefully penning another paragraph about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, the hunchbacked crumudgeon on my shoulder said, “Is it any good?”
IS IT ANY GOOD????
Those were the words that started it all. Once the editor was on my shoulder, I saw myself comparing my work to the work of other writers. I fretted over each line. Questions emerged – Are my adjectives and adverbs precise enough? Will I ever learn how to avoid the comma splice? Do I make people think, feel, and wonder, or are my readers bored to death with my incessant ramblings? Question after question after question rumbled through my brain while the bastard on my shoulder grinned.
I had periods where I wrote intensely, mainlining words like an addict on a binge. I shoved cotton balls in my ears to drown out all of the questions. I did what the experts tell you to do. I read and read and read. I spent huge amounts of time capturing experiences, slicing them apart, and then trying to reconstruct them with my best tools. Sometimes I was amazed. At other times I was completely deflated so I took long breaks. Even during the breaks I felt trapped under the heavy gaze of the bastard who whispered, “Is it any good?”
Sometimes those words were so powerful and the editor was so sure of himself that my head became an empty vessel. I would sit down to write and stare at the page until the clock ran out. At other times, I would clean the house, organize magnets on my refrigerator, or mindlessly troll through the bowels of Facebook, all in an effort to avoid creating something that would evoke that stupid question.
Then a year and a half ago I got sick –really sick. It was the kind of sickness that creates existential crises. I was in pain and so tired that I felt like a faded copy of a faded copy of myself.
I knew I had to do something different or I would just stay trapped in the hellhole of sickness. Disease is truly about having dis-ease in your life. I was filled with barrels of frustration over symptoms that didn’t go away, barrels of dread over my recovery, and barrels of anger because this just wasn’t fair. But carrying around all those barrels didn’t do me a damn bit of good, so I decided to pick up my pen again.
I knew if I wanted to get well then I couldn’t write alone. Between the struggles of living with a chronic illness and the hunchbacked bastard, my brain had become a ghetto with a concrete playground. One slip off the slide, and it’s splitsville for your head. I knew I would need accountability, positive support, and some really strong duct tape to cover that smug little grin. So I Googled Mindfulness and Writing and this is what I found . . .