Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down These Bones, says writing is like baking a cake. The ingredients are the details, but you can’t just list them. Milk, eggs, oil and flour don’t make a cake. They need the heat and the energy of the oven to be transformed. The same way that we must add the heat and energy of our hearts to the details to transform the writing.
I can write “Every time I read your letter I worry about what will happen.” Or I can write “Every time I read your letter a terrible screeching alarm goes off in my head.” They convey the same message, but one is much more powerful than the other. It paints a picture in your mind and invokes emotion in your heart.
I want to write stories with the kind of burning heat that can scorch paint off walls. I want my words to incite growth and love and unprecedented change.
I want all that, I do – but I think it’s arrogant to believe that I will write those kinds of stories today or tomorrow.
I spent the past few nights re-reading journals and even re-reading essays from this challenge in an attempt to try and choose some pieces for my first reading this upcoming Thursday. I can see the growth in my craft, I can see how the reading and writing I’ve been doing have leveled me up as a writer. But I still have a way to go … and not just with the cross-stitching of words.
An essay is a journey towards answering a question. Both Ann Lamott and Edwidge Danticat talk about what writers are called to explore and that is the unspeakable, untouchable ghosts that haunt them in the silence.
My ghosts, my personal demons have manifested themselves in an ironically brightly colored contraption that sits at the base of my core. This rubber band ball of anxiety is all different colors, widths, and sizes wrapped around to create a bundle of nerves and insecurity that have started to grow into the lining of my belly.
I write to try and unravel that colorful rubber band ball of anxiety, removing one at a time – observing it in the light and asking those difficult questions. How did it get here? Where did it come from and why did it stay?
Somedays are better than others. Somedays the colorful rubber band ball of nerves is smaller and I think, “Yes! I’m getting closer to being the woman I was destined to be.”
Other days I feel like a failure and a coward. Unable to ask the questions of myself or of others. Struggling to set healthy boundaries. The colorful, elastic rubber band ball of nerves expands and I feel bloated – full of anxiety and fear and unworthiness. Those days I have to remind myself that I am not a fraud. I am only human.
I’m not ready to journey towards the answer to the question. I’m not ready because I’m not entirely sure I even know what the question I need to be answering is.
After a minor relapse of sorts this weekend, I sat in the deafening silence of my apartment and asked myself why. Why was I feeling shame again, nipping at my heels like an obnoxious, overly excited chihuahua? Why did I fall back into the same cycle?
I realized it was because the choices I made did not align with my goals or my purpose in life. Then I had to sit and reflect some more. I had to ask myself, What are my goals? What is my purpose? I had a general idea, but general ideas don’t lead you to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I should be able to articulate my goals and purpose with unwavering assuredness.
Certain people in my life keep telling me to just write a book already. But I can’t. I’m not ready. I’ve still got work to do. I have to heal this heart of mine so that it can generate the heat and energy the words to my story will need.
Right now I’m just rubbing sticks and stones together over paper and logs, occasionally sparking and catching flame. I’m a fire in the making. One day I will be a full-fledged fire roaring with the sound of splintering and cracking wood. Until then … xoxo
***This is essay 35 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.