The witches’ brew of writing

March 26, 2013
Nic’s Left Edge

I’ve been a writer all my life.

It started with plays, although I can hardly remember what they were. Our elementary school library had those little booklets of plays and I made my way through them, starting at age eight and not stopping until I moved on to middle school.  Along the way I wrote little plays, although memory fades–what were they about?

Anyway, I kept moving, pen in hand.

At 16, I had a small column in our town newspaper. Started at journalism school age 18. After that, I was in motion and never looked back.

Writing was my job in corporate communications and consulting, but I occasionally found time to place the odd essay or two in a literary journal, newspaper or read one on the local NPR station.

Several years ago, I thought I had a memoir in me.

Ok, let’s be honest. I knew it, really.  When your college sweetheart/first husband returns out of the blue after 27 years of divorce, and you’re getting ready to marry someone else, well, there’s a story there.

But there are many ways to tell it.

And I don’t want to be a Lifetime movie kind of writer. I need the BIG HOOK. The greater meaning.

So, for about a year, I attended a weekly writing workshop in San Francisco. I got pretty far–some 90,000 words–but they were disconnected parts missing a spine. Teacher and I couldn’t agree on the through-line.

I knew what I thought it was, she didn’t agree. But I couldn’t go her way, either.  I was stuck.

“Look,” she said. “You’re driven to write. Why don’t you write fiction?” And offered an out of the box idea about a story that I had no interest in writing.

And so finally, I stopped.

I didn’t intend to stop for so long, but I did– a year.  A year of never opening that file.

Teaching became a great distraction. It kept me busy and engaged. But in the back of my mind, I was always working on that memoir. Always trying to find the right hook. The right storyline.

Because, you see, my story’s a little complicated, with twists and turns and geographies–it’s just not linear. And if I were to take a journalist’s view and try to report all the facts, well, readers would be lost in all the back and forths.  I mean, who moves to Florida and back three times? And to California and back? And lives in both places for some of the time? And gets married, remarried, married again, engaged and remarried? Not to mention all the in betweens.

Shifting scenes, shifting life–how to make sense of the mess?

That year was a blessing.

Because now, out of nowhere, I am on fire. I hadn’t written an essay in years, although when I submitted essays back in the day I had a pretty good placement rate. (That was back when they paid and writers didn’t think something written for free in the HuffPost would be an achievement.) But the other day? I wrote an essay and I think, a pretty good one.

by Dalton

And I’m getting ready to start back on the memoir, this time, though, trying to talk through the throughline with some new professional help.  She may agree with Teacher, and if she does, I’ll listen. But she may have another take on it.  I hope that happens, but I’m open. After all, I do believe in data. Because I’ve seen a talented writer accomplish nothing because professional input wasn’t solicited or welcomed.

I want to do it my way, but if I can’t, I want to do it in a way that makes sense to me.

My life has never been busier, but I’m more energized in my creative life, too.

Being around theatre people and artists may have been the catalyst for this explosion of creative energy. I’ve started working with on a new website and blog. I have an idea for some workshops. I’m redoing our kitchen in vibrant colors. We’ll be doing a lot of travel the rest of the year, to fabulous places that feed my need for visual stimulation.

And, I’m writing. More than blogging. I’m writing.

Here’s the lesson:  Sometimes you just have to set something aside, even if it’s for a pretty long time.  Sometimes, you can’t climb over the wall that’s blocking progress unless you rest up and regenerate.  Sometimes, you just need to let a thing simmer a while to meld all the flavors. It’s a witches’ brew, really, with a little of this, a little of that and even a touch of eye of newt.

All I know now, though, is that I’m writing again.

And it feels mighty good.

6 comments on “The witches’ brew of writing
  1. Graciewilde says:

    This post is inspiring to me but perhaps not for the reason you intended. Yes, being reminded that sometimes ideas or projects are best left on simmer is certainly valuable and I appreciate that. But the larger message here is that you have lived a life already – clearly embraced much (both personally and professionally) and yet you are still on fire – “my life has never been busier and I am energized in my creative life”. You know, that’s the message I needed to hear right now. For a little bit I have been sort of drowning the stupid angst of being sixty,having to work for health insurance and a paycheck, and feeling empty and run over by life. I like to read stories like yours. They help me to see another direction and , as corny as it sounds, they give me hope. Thanks
    And I am very interested in that memoir – sounds to me like a fascinaitng story!

  2. denise danches fisher says:

    Yep, exactly were I am, I have been simmering for decades. I start and stop. Push and go, up and down – I am on this carousel and I just can’t get off. I have to do things when my biorythmn is right. It never is right, however- so I saunter on.

    I can so relate to your post. However, you have an exciting job, and are getting the stimulus you need. The moment is right for you, I hope you go for it!

  3. In our house, we call this “Soak Time”. And like a good beer or fine wine..some soak time takes longer. IT just does.

  4. Sisters from Another Mister says:

    Complicated makes for great twists and turns … sure sounds like a best seller too me!

  5. Gracie,I get where you are–doors appear, keep looking–my motto is that any given moment can change your life, you just have to be there!
    Denise, it’s thrilling to teach young, bright people, but have had my share of long, dry spells, too! Shelley, I love that! Nicole, from your lips to God’s ears! xoxo

  6. I hope all goes well for you. Complications can be easy to write about, if they aren’t your twists and turns…sometimes, writing about your own is the most difficult! Good luck, hope I am one of the lucky ones who get to see you move forward.

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