Words Washing Over Me

I hate the gym. And it just recently occurred to me why. I hate working out for the sake of just working out. Running aimlessly on a treadmill, or climbing endless stairs to nowhere. It’s not the workout I dislike. I actually enjoy the endorphin euphoria I feel once I’m done, but I miss the connection from simply being in the great outdoors. Hiking the mountain trails out my back door, I absorb all things created and breathed. Flying down the hillside on my mountain bike all of nature washes over me. When I ski through the powder snow, I too become light and full as the flurries wrap me up in their cold fleece. In these places, I’m reminded I am right here, part of the natural world. I’m not forced to stare at some formulated magazine figure, with her queer wide white smile and erased body watching as I elliptical my way to a healthier me. Who would enjoy that? No wonder so many people resist the gym.

When I connect with the outdoors, the workout doesn’t even matter, it just happens. But I am reminded I am right. The way I am. I belong in this space. I don’t need to do anything special except exist. I am the crooked gnarled pinion tree on the dessert mountain hill and simultaneously I am the grand collegiate peaks on the horizon. I am one with it and a part of it at the same time.

This last week I realized writing holds equal significance for the very same reason. The challenge I’ve placed on myself is not to write for the sake of exercising my writing skills. It is for connection. In the last six months I faced the most difficult time in my life and it has left me confused. My daughter was paralyzed in a traumatic car accident, and my ex was driving. I have felt every possible emotion allowed to a woman through this experience. Emotions I didn’t even know existed and I struggle to find words for. I think this is why I always return to images in nature to remind me of who I am and more importantly how I feel. When I put those descriptions into words, I am reminded where I’ve come from, where I want to go, and what I am in this moment. And more importantly, I give myself permission to feel whatever I am in this moment. This is my poetry and the words that wash over me.

You may not know exactly what a poem is (and that’s the beauty of poetry—it can change; it should change), but you know you must write one.
–Rita Gabis, “Why Poetry”

The best lines come after

This guilty feeling has been lingering in the back of my mind over the last week. I didn’t want to pay attention to it, but it kept poking at me, demanding attention like a needy child.

With that said, I have to confess–I’ve been revising all of my published pieces. And not just one or two words here or there, I’ve completely reworked line breaks, added and removed whole passages, and changed descriptive images. Being new to blogging, I’m not sure what socially acceptable rules are in place, and I’m a firm believer that you need to know the rules before you break them. Nonetheless this time, I’m pretty sure I’m breaking an unwritten rule. I think I understand this behaviour is uncultivated. However, in my defense, this journey began as a personal challenge to put a creative piece of work on paper everyday, and I am loving this challenge. What I don’t love is the feeling my pieces need more time and space for that finished feel, because of their creative nature.

Thankfully, as I start week three, I’ve smartened up and have multiple posts in draft form as we speak. I still wonder though, if like a meth addict I won’t continue to return to those finished pieces. I also can’t help but excuse this addiction because of the nature of my blog. I’m not reporting current news here people, I’m spilling my life and soul and perspective onto the page. Sometimes, I don’t even know what my lines mean, and they’re my own. I have to sit on them and chew for awhile to figure the pacing and the break and the image and the connection and the rhythm and meter. Maybe if I was a better writer, this would come easier to me, but it doesn’t, so I guess I have to accept my dysfunctional literacy.

As usual, I have to find those renowned voices who can support my instability. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, comforts me with her thoughts on revision:

What matters is that you consider what you have on the page as an unfinished piece of work that now requires your best conscious and patient appraisal.

-A Poetry Handbook

Thank you Mary, I agree. With my ‘best conscious’ and patience, my best lines come after, long after, I throw down the bones. Lines like the following:

Their cult and creed grew from a ditch,\revenge their one resolve.
(The Lake County Wars)

hidden below\ the floorboards of my mind
(by the pen)

I’m slurring it clearly\so they know I am fine
(My Words is Liars)

The long nights when parents reminisced with friends and family clumsily spilling my truth.
(Dissonance)

Now I couldn’t find anything that excused my revision addiction after publishing. Like a true addict, no one will agree with me. I guess I’m going to just have to stand my ground. What good is self-publishing, if I can’t make some of my own rules?

As we head into another challenging week, I’d love to hear your perspective on this subject or your best lines and what it took to get them written? Remember to share the line and give a link to your blog in your reply.

On Writing Down the Bones

“I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work.”
-Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

The wind is wicked today, and temperatures have dropped. Another autumn is gone and winter is in full Colorado form. It’s the perfect day to sit in front of the fireplace with a steamy hot drink, reflecting on my hot new relationship with blogging. I’m smiling, so that’s something. I can’t remember the last time I felt this level of satisfaction. I finally just did it. I put pen to paper everyday. It didn’t matter what I wrote, who read, what genre or subject emerged, I just wrote, and people did read.

Thank you people. I appreciate you all peeking in. 

Looking back over my week of blogs, I realized I built a creative scrapbook of words and photos from my world,  and I couldn’t help but think of Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. I jumped up and pulled it off the shelf to read it again:

“WRITERS LIVE TWICE. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training.  The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it.”

What a phenomenal truth. I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to write about, or the time to say it well. I definitely had my moments of panic (frantically posting before midnight on Thursday), but when I returned to my day, I found something in the menial tasks to write about, even the frustration of limited vocabulary. On further reflection, those menial tasks were the highlights of my life over the last week: (monday) thinking about my transitions, (tuesday) reading a great line from a book, (wednesday) sharing and hearing the remarkable stories of twelve other women around dinner, (thursday) frustrations with vocabulary, (friday) talking God and philosophy with a great friend, and (saturday) driving through an unexpected snow storm with my sweetheart.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt desperation and frustration. At times I felt my words were empty and worthless, but when I broke through all of that insecurity, I felt awe and surprise at what I was seeing in myself through my own words, at what I was seeing in my life.  In the chaos and trauma, I sometimes forget I have a truly beautiful life.  Life is the smallest of moments and I have a record.

On the other side of blogging, I have discovered some great reading that has inspired me.  The work so many of you have put into your craft motivates me to write more.  I’d like to highlight a few of the blogs I’m enjoying, in case you’re looking for some additional good reads:

  1. Retkon Poet has an impressive pen and uses this gift to save lives.
  2. Notalentforcertainty offers us not one, but three verses a day, and this man is never lacking on subject matter.
  3. A Writer’s Path by theryanlanz is the cat’s meow on writing tips, information and advice.

As I move into week two, I’m still not sure if I will be able to fill this commitment to myself and pen. I am drowning in unfinished projects. A single mom with three teenagers (one severely disabled), and a full-time job will try to discourage me, I’m sure. The idea of finding time to write everyday still feels ludicrous. But last weekend, I couldn’t help but think, if not now, when?  And so here I am at the end of my first week, which I understand this is so trivial compared to some of the amazing blogs I’ve found this week, but I feel rich, and I’m looking forward to the meaningful work.