I am currently facing a writer’s conundrum.
Previously I’d wait for the writing to come to me. And it generally did. Some of the best pieces I have written, those that virtually flowed from my head through the keys on to the page and to the world, came to me. Most of these pieces that I loved writing and reading and re-reading made their way to me. I didn’t go seeking them out. I simply responded to their call. They whispered their presence to me, and I had gotten smarter over the years… so I made haste to get to the laptop, and wrote them out.
Like the time I was driving home from work, and a prisoner transport van passed my car. I made eye contact with a handsome black man, young and brooding, dark eyebrows and deep set eyes. I couldn’t look away. He held my gaze steadily, and our vehicles weaved in and around each other, until I had to take my exit. His van sped away. I could hardly get home fast enough. It was a compelling experience, and I had to write about it. I wasn’t sure I could describe the feeling fully but I tried. That’s how Locking Eyes came into being.
And that’s how the best of my writing has come to me.
Yes, I have always played bride to my writing (thanks, Mary Oliver, for the apt description). I have waited and waited for it to make an appearance, and when it does, I welcome it with joy and love… utterly glad that it chose me. I have often felt like a midwife, birthing a thought or a series of ideas into the world. That’s why I can never claim this writing as my own, because I cannot summon it at will. And I know this because I have been trying to do JUST that the last few months.
And I hate that method, I simply do.
I have been trying to think about my writing in smarter, more strategic ways. What should I write about? XXX sounds like a good topic. Let me give it a try. And it has been somewhat okay, I admit. But there is no joy either in the writing process or in the outcome. The end result feels terribly sterile, lacking in vitality. And what is on display is the effort, my attempt to string together alliterative phrases, trying hard to wring out emotion and feeling from a set of words. Sometimes, the final piece delights others but to me, it feels very hollow, pretentious.
I am no bridegroom or adventurer. I am a wanderer, a purposeless rambler… I am one who responds to Life. I have responded time and again to love, joy, beauty. And my knowing has taken me to beautiful places. Thus I developed trust in my knowing.
I have responded to Life through my writing. I have never sought to understand Life. I didn’t venture into the writing universe, determined to make a mark; I only responded to what called me. So it’s hard for me to make a plan for my writing. Because I am at the mercy of what’s out there, not always what’s in here.
“Let’s submit an article for publication; let’s write something for this magazine.”
Sure, I can give that a shot. But it feels terribly dull, lacking in juice and zest. I cannot seem to write fully and joyfully for another person. Heck, I cannot even do it for myself!
I can only write as an echo, a faint and wondering answer to Life. I am fairly okay at catching a ball but I am far better at catching cues… and I hope to improve. I have hurled many a ball in the sky, and the Universe has taken pity on me. I haven’t got rainbows, but I got published articles.
So I have decided to stop playing the bridegroom. I will be the midwife, the bride, the solitary walker. I will be the one who watches the stars, smells the fragrance of the wind.
And I will wait.