I love the subtle nuances in language you encounter when you sit down to write. You end up pleasantly surprised by the unexpected gifts your muse can bring once you show up for the moment.
While preparing to write this post, I thought to share how I’ve been in the process of re-creating certain aspects of my life, and I initially wrote, “I am in process of recreation.”
I stopped and looked at that last word and thought,
“Now, that’s an oddball way to say that… re-creating vs. recreation?”
Or is it?
To describe re-creating oneself or life, I subconsciously used the word that means “refreshment of strengths and spirits after work,” a term whose Latin origin means to “restore to health.”
The more I think about it, that’s what writing does for me—it restores me.
The problem I face, like many other well-meaning writers, is I don’t give my health, er, writing, the front row seat it deserves. I neglect it, take it for granted, put it off, blab about my desire to improve it, and feel guilty and inadequate for not making it an everyday practice. Ugh, so much angst and shame surrounds this idea when I spell it out in that way.
But it wasn’t always like that…
When I was nine years old, I went to the store with my mother and came across a fuchsia-colored, cloth-bound book with blank pages inside and instantly made a friend. I asked to take this new friend home and mom agreed—no outside influences necessary, my request was based on a simple desire to write. That’s it. I had no expectations, no goals, no agenda, no ego.
I picked up a pen (no deep breaths required), and had my first exchange with page one.
It went like this… “Today I ate eggs and Grandma and Grandpa are visiting us from Texas…” That was the start to a lifelong relationship between me and writing.
I visited my new friend on a periodic basis and as the years past, I filled up page after page with details about how I felt, things I ate, places I went, and boys I liked. My infatuation with a guy named Ricky got what newspapers and magazines would consider full page spreads—I was clearly mesmerized by his dirty blond hair, white skin, blue eyes, and that Puerto Rican bubble butt.
(What, you didn’t think women noticed too?)
I became a writing zealot, a devout scribe to my deity, The Page… it proved to be my sanctuary of sorts.
Instead of rubbing rosary beads, I was kneading ballpoint pens between my fingers, releasing whatever demons plagued me at the moment. Happily, I knelt at the edge of my bed many a night to confess my innermost thoughts. This faithful act kept my emotions in check and calmed my mind when life didn’t make sense. I had little to no understanding of anxiety, procrastination, resistance or feeling a sense of obligation when it came to engaging with this faithful friend.
My family saw me writing often and, for the most part, they respected my privacy—except that one time my brother grabbed my diary and read it in front of the neighbor boy. Why did he have to randomly open to the page that began, “Today I started wearing a training bra…”? That story followed me to school the next day and I had a few of the other guys teasing me about my newly developing body. Dirty looks and silence were my response, but I licked my wounds, returned home and worked it out onto the page.
When my mother was busy loving my brother and actually raising me, I wrote about the unfairness of being the girl. When I experienced my first French kiss—with Ricky, of course—I wrote about that 25 minute ordeal (read: this burgeoning adolescent girl’s dream come true). When I had some run-ins with mean girls at school, I cursed and wrote about them.
Pre-pubescent little girl diaries with front cover key locks became hormonal teen girl five-subject notebook journals.
As the years passed, I enjoyed rereading my journals and seeing the changes I went through, laughing at myself and with others as I did open book readings with friends on my front stoop. My handwriting and language evolved from one book to another. I was able to evaluate myself as a person and decide, “Yuck…I cursed a lot there, not attractive…Wow, I was hateful…Ugh, what crappy friends, never again…” Those moments of recognition were the seeds of self-awareness being gently planted within me.
Thanks to my unacknowledged writing habit, I was unknowingly making decisions about the woman I wanted to be, on paper and in person.
Although I didn’t realize the benefits of what I was doing, self-reflection was at work and these seemingly unimportant moments of recreation were actually doing their part to create the person I am today.
When it came to writing, there was never a question of what I wanted to say, whether I was good enough to say it, whether the story was worth telling…it was merely about release and play and self-expression.
Eventually, that intimate practice of writing atop bunk beds late at night, sitting at the kitchen table, and scribbling in front of my Chicago brownstone on warm summer days translated to a young girl who had a high regard for herself. Writing granted me a healthy dose of self-worth without the conscious pursuit of it. Writing was an outlet for peace and solace. I wrote as if I was speaking to someone separate from me, yet it was a form of cultivating a relationship with me all along.
As I grew up, I took breaks from writing because I got busy living and there was no guilt in my absence.
I became your everyday working girl, newly graduated from college, and when I wanted to slow down, I’d do so at the page.
It wasn’t until I jumped the corporate cliff and made the announcement, “I want to be a writer” that I somehow lost the feeling the act brought me.
I was mentally unprepared to handle the struggle I encountered balancing something that brought me peace once I put a price on it. Declaring myself a writer was unnecessary because I was one already. Without realizing, I had embarked on a search for validation for something that didn’t need to be proven.
Instead of going to confession with pen and paper in hand, I started to rely on conversations with others about my feelings, about the confusion I was experiencing on this trail that had only my name on it. I almost started to believe that other people had the answers I needed, that the accolades and social proof behind them was suppose to give me comfort in asking for directions to where I needed to go—as if they knew. That wasn’t the key that would unlock the door to what once brought me and could always bring me peace.
Looking outside of yourself for answers has a dizzying effect and takes you nowhere.
Show up for you, for the YOU in fresh canvas form to weigh things out in your own mind first. Give time to what nurtures and grounds you…the practice of writing, or whatever art form that chooses you. There are many outlets—sports, music, writing, painting, building a business, etc. Become engaged in yours, regularly, so you don’t become stagnant and polluted by what can cause you to feel jaded or confused about life. It can get pretty weird out there.
Writing, or whatever art form you practice, has a grounding effect and it’s crucial that you remember to do it for this purpose, not for your own personal glory, for likes, or validation.
I’m fully aware that my words could land on deaf ears because each one of us has to take a ride for ourselves to discover these truths. It’s hard won wisdom and it cannot be earned any other way.
I’m not here to dish grand advice on how to live right, but to encourage you to simply write (or however you creatively unleash on life). Do it because it makes you feel good, because it strengthens you, and if you approach it with that intention, or better yet, with no intention at all, you will experience true recreation in this very pure act and end up creating something unexpectedly amazing.
Those moments when you are stared at blankly or laughed at frankly… grab a hold of them and make them your experiment on paper.
When you write it out, you inevitably write it off, and THAT is what restores you again and again and again.
Live, write, release, restore… go for that full circle effect, my friend.Tweet