Letting the Words go Fallow

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I used to sit down to my blog every day with something to say. At some point everything I had to say became so difficult to discuss in a blog post that I couldn’t face the effort of diving in and dissecting a subject like I used to. Blogs have changed, social media has changed the nature of blog writing. At first blogging felt like a can opener that could rip the world wide open and let light into all the dark corners. Blogging created a geek paradise for those of us who have had a hard time finding our tribe in our own cities. But at some point the blog world started feeling like a cross between high school and a tacky advertising firm.

Writers sometimes have to stop writing in order to breathe, in order to live outside their own heads, in order to refresh and find the new page. I suppose I’ve been going through a lot of that in the past two years. I finally found the personal struggle I don’t feel comfortable sharing a lot of with the world.

And considering I’ve been open about my struggles with suicidal ideation, that’s saying a lot.

In spite of all of this, the urge to sit down here in my small corner of the public universe and talk about everything I’m thinking about, hearing, seeing, and worrying about is super strong. I’ve sat down to write something a million times and tried to unburden my mind only to find that no matter how loud the detritus in my head rattles I can’t shake any of it loose. Over the last ten years I have driven myself to produce ever better content, to become a better editor, a better photographer, to make stronger arguments, and to give something worth stopping for to those who stumble into my universe. Writing here has absolutely made me a much stronger writer, has made me accountable to an audience, has made me see my writing outside of myself.

But I forgot how to simply let myself spill like I used to. I’ve forgotten how to sit down without a specific agenda and let everything tumble out naturally and wildly. I’ve forgotten how to let a subject unwrap itself in a stream of consciousness flood. It’s the difference between only planting things in your garden that you buy at the nursery or seeded yourself on purpose and letting a forest of volunteers burst up out of your soil that you have to cultivate and watch until you discover whether or not you want them to take up permanent residence in your garden. I’m a big fan of volunteer gardening because it’s the only kind of surprise in life that doesn’t fill me with dread.

The most gorgeous pink hollyhock I’ve ever seen sprouted up in my McMinnville garden as a ghost of a previous garden. I’ve never successfully grown a hollyhock on purpose. This one sprouted and I was curious to see what it would become, I had no idea what it was when it first popped up. I let this mysterious thing grow up behind my blueberry bed and I kept waiting to see what it would become, withholding judgment until buds swelled on its stem and I knew it was going to be marvelous. It wasn’t until the buds fully opened that I discovered its true identity.

Sometimes good ideas must germinate in untended fields where they are free to develop un-selfconsciously. I believe great writing happens in this narrow place where wild ideas are allowed to rise from craggy soil but are then pruned and cultivated with great care.

What I’ve been calling writer’s block is nothing more than letting my writing go fallow.

I’m just beginning to understand that during this fallow period I need to let my writing go wild. I need to let it wander, explore, and try new things. I must remove the editorial restrictions necessary for great writing and let it develop awkwardly and gorgeously by turns without imposing my cerebral ideas of what it SHOULD BE. I need to let it be ugly, gnarled, convoluted, and strangled at times. I need to let it go to seed and get weedy.  I need to let it be silly, stupid, shallow, heavy, thick, short, curt, and raw when it wants to be.

It’s in my nature to want to control everything. I have learned to let my garden and my quilting be free from restriction and perfection so that they can instead be meditations of discovery. There are precious few areas in my life where I indulge my childish side and allow curiosity and a sense of adventure lead me forward. Where I allow myself to be unapologetically imperfect and rough.

So many times in my life I’ve written words on paper even when I had absolutely nothing to say because forming letters on a page with a pen was so soul satisfying and necessary to my sense of well-being that it really wasn’t about having something to say. The ink had to always be flowing so that it would be ready when I had something important to say. I kept myself oiled and in practice with a whole lot of stupid nonsense and I never felt shame that I wrote notes like “I’m just writing this because I love to form the letter “a” with my pen on this particular paper”. It was all part and parcel of a much bigger whole. Somewhere along the way I started thinking I could only write when I had something to SAY.

I like to sign my name to things. Not because I really love my name. I’ve had so many last names that my identity isn’t wrapped up in them at all. I like signing my name because when I was a lot younger I worked hard to develop a signature that would be satisfying to scrawl, that would be visually pretty and distinctive and that I would enjoy writing. I get compliments on my signature all the time. People think I’m fancy. The truth is that I waste no opportunity to lushly enjoy forming letters with a pen because I’m in love with my alphabet and my language. That isn’t fancy, that’s geek-love.

There is so much fomenting just under the surface. I’ve had more than one epiphany recently about the projects I’ve been working on that have been unclear and difficult, yet felt too important to ignore. It’s been a little fraught all up in this brain of mine. Now that I’m beginning to understand how important it is for my brain to go fallow I’m relaxing the vigilant anxiety that I’m not moving fast enough, working hard enough, and that I’ll never get to the finish line. At least a little bit.

There’s a big corner I’m approaching. I can feel it. If I think about how big it is I’ll lose my nerve and retreat deep into my sleeping life. I’m trying not to look it in the eye or say it out loud but I know I’ll have to to make it real, to make it rise from its shallow grave where I buried it in a fit of vile fear.

I could die tomorrow.

If I die tomorrow instead of living, I would like to have let my writing, my mind, my childhood, my loves, my thoughts, and my spirit graze freely in a field of wildflowers where weeds are beloved and everything exists on the same level of marvelous. If I die tomorrow instead of living, I’d like to know that my last blog entry wasn’t trying to be more than it is, more than it should be, a pompous studied mess of attempted perfection. If I die tomorrow instead of living, I would like everyone to know that my last thoughts were curious free thoughts without boundaries or fake polish.

If I die tomorrow, I’d like my last words to include a heinous typo that will haunt editorial perfectionists for the rest of time.

I’m not a nice person.

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