I’ve been reading a lot about writing lately. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” about the creative process and incorporating art into your life. I’m also reading Glennnon Doyle Melton’s “Love Warrior” where she essentially attributes starting a blog to saving her life. My friend bought me a book on creating the right environment to be able to write. I signed up for a coaching program through a creative writing company. I also started, and promptly dropped out of, an online writing course through the university of Iowa. But I haven’t actually been writing much. What’s going on? I have developed a deep enthusiasm for writing, yet it seems like it might just be the idea of writing rather than the actual act.
Writing comes to me best when I am alone and feeling spiritual. This combination doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes it has hit me on lunch breaks or when my husband is sleeping in on weekends. But for some reason I can’t write when my husband is around. I feel intensely private about it. I want to be in my bubble. I don’t want to share my work until it’s done, if then. I don’t want my zone to be disrupted.
I also find that writing comes more easily to me when I’m not in my regular routine. The best is when I’m in between places – on a greyhound bus, on a ferry, in an airport, waiting to kill time in a coffee shop. Writing while travelling is the best. Life is more vivid when you’re not at home. Even if I’m just travelling back to BC, I find the feeling of being outside my life – out of the normal work, TV, gym routine to be conducive to writing. I wrote my favourite blog post on my iPhone on a bus from Pemberton to Vancouver. I think being outside the routine is good for the mind, it gets me thinking – my wandering promotes wondering.
However, as I write this, I realize they are all excuses. If I really wanted to write more I could lock myself in a room or I could go to a coffee shop. I could make time for it instead of surfing the web and scrolling on Facebook. The real reason I don’t write more is because it scares me. I feel like I tap into a deeper me. A more profound, sad, scared, contemplative, wise me. Writing is emotional and emotions are scary. I also feel like I enter another realm. It takes a little while to get there but then I am in another dimension. It’s a good dimension, but again scary, and often disorienting. After writing, I often feel like dizzy. It’s the feeling of waking up after what was supposed to be a quick nap but ended up being deep REM sleep in the middle of the day. I don’t feel refreshed afterwards; I feel satisfied but vulnerable. I even feel a tinge of guilt. I wonder if I revealed too much. I feel like writing is a clandestine act – like it’s weird that I just escape into myself and contemplate my thoughts for an hour.
Often writing is downright upsetting as well. I wrote one of these blog posts, the first one I think, where I just felt like I threw up my whole life’s worries onto the page. I felt a satisfied after writing it, but I did it right before bed and I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned for hours because my mind was racing. Writing brings up pain, it brings up unresolved issues, we don’t write about the clean and tidy parts of our lives. I heard one writer say “we write about what haunts us”. Indeed, writing feels like therapy – difficult, unpleasant, but necessary. It doesn’t stop the pain, but it manages it, if incredibly uncomfortably.
All these feelings and traveling between “realms” and visiting different selves only happen when I write for myself. When I write creatively, so to speak, even though I never write fiction. I can write at work with my eyes closed. Writing my Master’s thesis was certainly not cathartic. I didn’t enter a spiritual state citing social scientists. It’s only when I do this type of journal-style writing. The fear, the emotional roller coaster, the never ending wheels turning in head stop me from writing more often. Sometimes I wonder if writing really is a good thing if it upsets me this much. Are these types of essays just navel-gazing? Would it improve my mood more to get outside myself – to see friends, exercise, party – to be a part of the world instead of just observing it from a distance? I don’t know. I do know that writing feels real though. It feels like the opposite of Facebook. It’s not curated, there aren’t sound bites; I have to concentrate on one thing for a long time instead of scrolling through different posts. I can’t multitask when I write. I have to be with my thoughts, exposed and alone, until I’ve run out of things to say. I wouldn’t say that writing reveals the true me because I think we have multiple selves that are all authentic, but it does bring out the serious and spiritual side of me. I’m not “on” when I’m writing. I’m not trying to be likeable and smart. I’m trying to dig – to dig deep and unearth a self who does not get to see daylight very often.