To write for twenty minutes no matter how it feels, to write as discipline, to write the way I used to. This is pushing me hard past what I enjoy to what I need. I like writing when the prompt comes through email from Lisa Jo and I automatically know what I should write. The five minutes flow effortlessly and the post is done and it feels so good. But to be a real writer again means I have to write on the days when it spurts and spits and flowing can only describe the irritated words swimming in my mind and sometimes out of my mouth. To write for twenty minutes today when I drove for 13 hours yesterday home from the best wedding I’ve ever been to, arriving at a barren refrigerator and a bathroom that smells like a four year old boy has bad aim. To write when there are taxes to pay and laundry to fold and a kitchen table that looks like a cross between a dishwasher, a sporting goods store, a pharmacy and a Hot Wheels storage bin. To write while the children are asleep and to lay down my precious few minutes, the primary currency of my greed these days, to use it all up on this writing life. To write when no one will read it or see it. To write when the words don’t feel good. To write when I want to stop.
This is the writing life and is the only kind of writing that will make me a writer. If I only write when I want to, I will write the way I run: a few months out of the year with no right to claim the title runner. Let’s be honest: I’m a fair-weather jogger. I might achieve my dream of running a 5K but I still don’t even know my race pace so when my marathon-running, hardcore brother writes me letters about how to increase my speed, I realize I need to start by buying a watch. I’m never going to be a runner.
But I already was a writer. I cloaked myself in that identity for years and stowed it away quickly, thoughtlessly when I ran amok in fear. The rattling tin cans inside quieted down enough this year to hear that writer’s voice. Quieter than she used to be and definitely out of practice, she demanded a chance to write again. I had forgotten the disciplines of this kind of art. Writing is not for the good days or the inspired days or the beautiful days. It is for every day or I won’t grow. Most days I don’t even want to grow. I don’t publicize my blog; my poor mother doesn’t even know I’m writing again. But no matter how much I try to smother or stifle or lay a fat down pillow over her face, this writing voice is calling out, her echo bouncing around in my soul that it is time to write again. Twenty minutes a day, I’m getting back in shape, learning to listen to her, seeing the world again through words. Painting pictures in my mind of how I would describe that playground hazy with second-hand smoke in rural Tennessee, surrounded by parents who reveal far more tattoo ink than I’m accustomed to. Distractedly writing letters as I drive through the mountains. Trying on words like most women try on clothes and finding them wanting. By the end it starts to feel like I’m getting my feet under me and I know I can set the timer again tomorrow.