Saying what is true and not knowing why today with the community at Five Minute Friday.
And just like that, it dries up. I thought I could never plumb the depths of the stories inside but a year after starting to write after a decade hiatus, I feel dry. Unable to write anything of value. Unwilling to discipline myself to write that which lacks value until my shovel-pen breaks through the dirt and I strike water again. Where did the words go? Where are the stories hiding? Like cockroaches in my bathroom in the Horn of Africa, retreating the instant the light is switched. I hear a few scratches but see nothing.
I need to write. Somehow the written word takes moments that could seem random and strings them together in the narrative that speaks sense and transcendence all at once. A whole-life story that is big enough to include rocking angry babies and a cross-cultural self and spiritual formation and The Year of Cancer and make it cohesive. Writing about it helps it hold together. And helps me see it as in unfolds. Just like learning all these Japanese names in a painting class: I need to see it written to make any sense of it at all.
But my fingers feel weary. It isn’t physical. There is fear; fear has barricaded me in the past and I can smell it a mile away. My spiritual director told me once, “Sometimes you don’t have to know why. You just have to know what is true.” I don’t know why my writing feels dry, why my fingers don’t fly, why my thoughts seem without value. My spiritual director is wise beyond her years; I can spend decades and journals and all my General Psychology 501 knowledge finding out the why.
Here is what is true: I need to write. Writing doesn’t need me. I have no guts for publication. I suck in my breath in pain with every rejection letter. Because I’m holding out a little piece of my heart that someone declines to hold with me. Yet I still need to write. Not for fame, not for money, not for statistics. Yes, I’ve covered that ground. This ground too: not for ease but in difficulty. In labor.
Two years ago at this moment I was holding a baby son, two hours old. That doctor let me push far longer than I wanted. He sat, unconcerned, and made the occasional (appropriate) joke as nurses started the pre-frantic, should we think about a C-section conversations. He was, as people in the birth world say, a hairy midwife. He let me birth my second son the way my body needed to and refused to join the nurses in panic as the clock dragged on and on and on. I push slow, apparently.
There is what is true: I need to push slow in writing too.