By Leslie Caton
I really hate writing sometimes.
Maybe I should back up. I do love writing, those moments when I can’t not write anymore, after the idea’s been going around and around in my head for too long. After I carried it and it scratched at me while I sorted laundry into piles and decided not to fold it now (again), scooped cat litter, watched a bird eat some snow, stared at my computer forgetting which email I needed to respond to first, waited in the car watching for the the top of my son’s head as the kids pour out of middle school… any time I wasn’t actively distracted or distracting myself.
Those moments are gold. Those times of flow like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about or when the spirit of creativity has fully possessed me like Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Big Magic. It’s like time stops and I just create. It’s so beautiful, so vital. So necessary.
And so hard. It reminds me of allowing myself to feel big feelings. Important, good, hard. I’m bad at it. Most of us in our culture right now are bad at it--how often do we accept the enormity of falling in love, the weight of grief, the anger of oppression, and just let ourselves feel? Give it the time and space it warrants, hold others in love whatever they’re experiencing, not try to “fix”? We’re better at numbing, at distraction, at being ok. I’d rather binge-watch The Haunting of Hill House because it’s big feels that aren’t mine and I’ll shake it off. Don’t unlock my own big feelings, don’t take big risks, don’t be too vulnerable, don’t really feel. Ugh.
Rationally, this is the most nonsensical thing ever but maybe someone will relate. Here’s what happens when I want to write:
Me: Cool, I have ideas and things to say or a deadline for a project I love or what appears to be free time, let’s do it!
Me: Ooooh you know I get antsy when I sit for too long, better work out first
-or- Ooooh there’s dishes in the sink
-or- Ooooh I should call my sister/daughter/friend/play with my cats/make some tea/eat a snack/engage with kids/catch up on more work/scrub the kitchen cabinets/deep clean the garage/regrout the bathroom/redo my taxes
Me: What the actual fuck is going on
Me: If I sit down to write maybe it won’t work
Me: So what, try it
Me: Well… what if it works?
Me: What if it works? What if I get in the flow, I connect with that infinite source and write, I open my heart, I create something that was aching, waiting to be created?
Me: No. Openness which equals pain. Because if I open to the world I open to all the tragedy that is our world and the pain that’s injustice and unhealed trauma and corporate greed and inevitability of my death and also the heat death of the universe
Me: True. so Facebook?
This is embarrassing and also a pretty good description of how it goes. But it doesn’t have to. In therapy I’m working on not shutting down the parts of myself that are anxious, mad, sad, whatever. Instead I’m learning to listen and the thing I keep coming back to is that I can handle pretty much whatever happens, whatever I feel, whatever I experience. I made it this far, right? I can be sad, I can be angry, I can be anxious. IT’S SO HARD. But I can feel these things and not shatter into a million pieces. I can also understand people hurt each other and know that my kids will likely live through my death and there is poverty in this world that kills and be incredibly sad and angry and at the same time grateful for what I’m not suffering. I can feel the guilt of not doing “more” and acknowledge it. I can take action or not but I can feel stuff and be ok. I can write and it’s awful, or nothing comes, and that’s ok. I can submit a piece and get rejected and be ok.
And it’s worth it because I don’t want to be just ok. There’s more after that--there’s joy, there’s elation, there’s sorrow, there’s wonder, there’s rage. Art. Connection.
I can build resilience.
I hate it but it feels good/bad/good. I can sit down and write—it’s worth it.