Yesterday, I had this small chink of a realisation. The life of sitting in my garret, feeling like I’m not doing anything, getting anywhere or achieving anything is THE WRITER’s LIFE.
The writer’s life is lonely, unforgiving, tedious, boring, sporadic, moody, uncertain, disconnected, unfocussed and I could go on. All of these become so much stronger when I think it shouldn’t be this way. The writer’s life is also reflective, contemplative, connecting, solitary, breathtaking, simple, beautiful, mindful, deep and free. And these become amplified when I accept the reality, in full.
My battle to not accept what I perceive as the down-sides has been relentless. I have been fighting very hard and it too often ends in tears. I have always thought describing the feelings writers suffer as ‘self-loathing’ was a little melodramatic, but I now understand it perfectly and would say this pretty well sums it up.
Instead, yesterday I realised what I have been battling and how hard I have fought with the reality that is writing and I decided (and fully expect to have to keep deciding), that I don’t want this fight with myself any longer. I want to get on with the work, not complain about the reality of it.
I chose to be compassionate with myself, and realised that my problem is that all of the invisible work of writing requires great patience and resilience and is completely different yet enveloped in the joy of an outcome. Much of it isn’t actually writing, but simply living – being, observing, absorbing and becoming. It requires sitting in the uncertainty, even doubt sometimes, and just accepting this is all there is and yet this is what it takes. The growing, developing, changing, opening, allowing and surrendering require trust and faith that the outcome will come. And rather than resistance, what will help is constant self-encouragement.
So today, just now, I re-read some post-it notes I’d shoved in Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird including her noting of Geneen Roth’s sage observation,
“Awareness is learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.” p. 31
Lamott says it herself,
“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings.” p. 178
I read Bird by Bird back in January and wrote this post-it only two months ago, and yet it has taken this amount of time for my sub-conscious to bring it to the attention of my consciousness. How could writing be any different. This is the time it takes.
How then can I not treat myself with great compassion in this time when it feels like nothing is going on, but when actually the writer in me is incubating and needs my warmth, love and appreciation.
Maybe this small realisation, this chink, is how the light gets in.
Somewhere in between, Kate Bush