I haven’t written in five weeks. Julia Cameron would call this taking time to “restock the pond” or “refill the well.” But it has been out of necessity more than creative intention.
I painted our entire house. Alabaster White now coats the renovated popcorn ceilings and hides the dark wood trim. Sherwin Williams “Silver Strand” cools most of the walls of the house, lending a faint blue, green or grey tint depending on the lighting of the room. There is still more to do, but now that we are living here, we will have to shift furniture and barricade rooms to get it done in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed.
I also took a break from podcasts, instead painting to playlists collected from illegally downloaded music while I was living in China. But I also painted to childhood favorites like the Big Chill soundtrack including “My Girl” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” as well as my Christian youth group culture beloved albums like “Enter the Worship Circle” and the album I listened to freshman year of college—Chris Rice’s “Deep Enough to Dream.”
Becoming more adept at cutting in with the angled paintbrush, I numbly eased into the music of all the women I have been. Escaping into those old identities was more comforting than obsessing over whether or not I was trading those old selves for the American Dream.
But now I have to shut off the music, put down the paint brush and get back to regular life.
I must get back to writing.
But the amount of time it takes to be a writer (not to mention a mother who writes) and live in that headspace begs the question: Why do I write at all? You may write for different reasons, but this is why I do it.
I write to think. I think best with a pen or pencil in my hand. I told a friend once that I am not a verbal processor, but need a pen to work out my thoughts. “So what is that called?” I asked her. “A writer,” she said.
I write to stay sane. (Seriously.) My journal is my personal counselor. If my husband and I reach an impasse in our communication, I’ll grab my journal and hole myself up to write it all out until I’ve figured out what I am feeling and why. I almost always reach clarity through doing this. I have saved thousands of dollars on therapy simply by journaling.
I write to remember and keep a record of my life. I have purposely not bought a fantastic camera because I want to transcribe my memories with words and not just pictures. I rode the bus in China and would experiment with different ways I could describe my experience to friends and family back home who would never have the opportunity to visit. Pictures seemed a less challenging puzzle.
I write to connect. I used to be a letter writer. I still schlep boxes of letters around with me to each place I’ve lived. Blogging, for me, sometimes feels like a polished letter to a friend. It is the state of my heart right now, in this place. But it can also feel one-sided–like standing in a lit room at night with the shades wide open. Others are seeing me from the outside, but I can’t see them. In this way, writing makes me feel exposed. Yet the days I feel most vulnerable as a writer are inevitably the days I get an email from a reader saying, “Thank you.” And “Me, too.”
I write because I am compelled. When I fell in love with my husband, love was a rapid river current that would have been impossible to escape. Writing feels much the same. Since the word “calling,” makes me squeamish, I hesitate to use that word, and yet it is something like that. I’m committed, but I also can’t imagine not writing. Being trapped without a way of getting my thoughts out seems like the worst kind of punishment. Writing is a need, not a want.
And to spiritualize it all (because sometimes we need to do that, don’t we?), I write my life as an offering. I hope God will take my loaves and fish—the simplicity of my days—and use them to feed more than just myself. Writing demands faith because there is always the fear that I am just wasting my time and adding noise to the world. But God delights in creating banquets out of table scraps, abundance out of scarcity, and cool springs from parched land.
I trust that the God who makes tiny seeds grow from dirt can plant my word offerings in the world and cultivate beauty that wasn’t there before.
And so this week I return to work without pay, fame or fanfare. For all its impossible demands on my time and attention, not writing is a far worse torture.
If you are a writer, why do you write?
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