Just Start Writing

Caroline Myss quote

Caroline Myss quote

Sitting down to write, I was delighted to notice that I was eager to be there. I enjoy writing, so one might think that I would always be eager to do it. Why then, have I repeatedly put it off, choosing to vacuum (I hate vacuuming) or take out the trash instead? I have even decided to return phone calls to people I knew were going to be huge time and energy monsters, before sitting down to write. It made no sense.

What was different this time? I reflected for a moment on our last MWC meeting, three days before. We discovered that we shared some similar patterns of procrastination, along with a disdain for vacuuming. Leah asked me why I would rather talk on the phone with an enervating person than see what is going to happen next in my story.

“Well,” I said, sheepishly, “I don’t know what is going to happen next, so I have to wait until I do know, and then write.” She looked at me, confused. “What if you just start writing, without knowing what is going to happen?” She offered. I looked at her, confused.

I don’t like uncertainty. It makes me uncomfortable. When I start a painting, I have a clear image in my mind of the finished work. I have tried abstract, improvisational painting in art classes, and the result has been consistent: a bad headache. Similarly, I tend to walk away from a painting when I’m not sure it’s going to turn out well, to go return a few phone calls. I have many ‘incomplete’ works in my studio.

So it has gone with my writing. I need an outline. Without one, I am not sure it will work. Our discussion dug deeper. What if we decided to be okay with a little uncertainty? How about writing a few sentences, not knowing if they were going to be garbage or treasure? We decided to let go of needing to know, and open up to whatever it is that fuels creativity, without a clear view around the corner.

That sounded like misery and agony to me, but I agreed to try it. The first session at my keyboard after our meeting was not miserable. It felt harmonious, and exciting. I had to take a few moments at first to switch gears, to change my thoughts from trying to accomplish something to exploring them. Then, I made another shift away from thinking at all. It was blissful.

How was the writing? Some of it was good, and some of it was awful. I didn’t care. I had written for hours, stopping only to attend to a missed meal. Not only had I endured the uncertainty, I had ignored it. It reared its annoying head a few times, and I noticed the lint on the carpet, but I looked away, certain I could write some more.

Leah and Carolyn

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