I’ve been sitting on a fence, between giving myself permission to write and talking myself out of it.
Have you ever been stuck there?
My problem is, if I go a couple of days not writing I get weird, I get kind of wary about the world, like something is out to get me and all is not right with it, and grumpy.
And despite all that discomfort, I’m often able to convince myself that writing would be a waste of time because I have nothing to say that anyone would want to read. I have feelings that sound like; ‘there are so many writers out there in the world with experiences and expertise and all their ducks together in a fancy jingle slogan perfect line, that my messy, slap dash wonderment is going to be basically useless.’
But as of tonight I haven’t written in three days, and things are feeling strange, and I also have a blog page, and it’s been a while since I posted, so maybe I can take care of two things in one. Efficiency, yes, there’s a good reason to write.
But why do I need to give myself a reason to write? Why can’t I just write and share it because I want to?
I tried to hold that attitude as I opened my computer, but at the same time I was wondering, ‘What’s happening in my life that would be inspiring or even interesting to anyone who reads this presently and in the future?’ And the answer was tomato soup and my six-month-old kitten who is extremely needy and cannot leave my lap unoccupied. The response made me pause for a moment but I have a lot of training in improvisation and follow the ‘yes, and’ principle I’ve taught for years, so I said, ‘OK, tomato soup, kitten, and?’
While my kitten is very cute, surprisingly, tomato soup is more interesting.
You see, today was Easter Sunday and instead of a feast in honour of this traditionally special day, tonight’s dinner was tomato soup from a box. I was somewhat creative, added a can of chickpeas and rice noodles, dumped the remains of a bag of nachos in a bowl, and while the soup was heating up, opened a bottle of wine and called out to my husband, “Stop working now, it’s time to eat something.” And while we enjoyed our meal, I was, as always, brought back to a memory of being seventeen and tasting home-made tomato soup for the very first time.
I was the youngest actor in a play and found myself surrounded by adults who took interest in the minutia of their lives. One day at rehearsal one of the actors announced he’d found an old Italian recipe for home-made tomato soup and was intent on trying it and sharing the results with us. That weekend we were invited to his apartment and offered small precious samples, and while we slurped and cooed he explained the process from beginning to end, finding the ripest juiciest fruits, straining them down to two large pots of pulp, slowly stewing them over a period of two days, and carefully adding seasoning to bring out the natural essence of tomato. Having only ever eaten tomato soup from a can, I was astounded at the difference in flavour. There was no comparison, the taste on my tongue was a kind of miracle.
I’ve tried over the years to reproduce that blissful encounter, but have always fallen slightly short of my expectations.
Tonight’s boxed version was better than the canned stuff from my childhood, but I guess, as in other things, it hard to compete with the first time.
Now back to that fence, the whole time I was writing out that story I was thinking, ‘Oh god, I hope I don’t make all kinds of grammatical and spelling errors that I don’t notice until after I post it. I thought about stopping before I began. And I carried on, because, well, because I was feeling less weird.
There are so many thoughts that try to keep me from writing.
Mind you, it’s not just not writing that makes the world feel very weird these days.
I have to admit to one big problem that underpins the rest, and that is the thought that I should only be writing things that will inspire others to write. At the root of my fear is a belief that there’s no point in me writing unless I’m helping other people. In other words, I want other people to do for themselves what I cannot easily do for me.
How do you spell conundrum? Or is it irony? What kind of writer am I when I can’t even decide which word is most appropriate?
It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn, that it’s ok for me to write because I love to write. Maybe you’ve experienced the same kind of negative self-judgement that makes you want to curl into a ball and watch The Matrix trilogy again. Even knowing how much I love words and sentences and ideas and ‘stories’, even with this deep abiding fascination with how letters make words, and the thrill of how they feel falling under my fingertips, or from the end of my pen, or sometimes, when I’m channeling Ernest Hemingway, from the tip of a pencil into a little note book, it’s hard to remember that I can write because I want to.
I remember when my love affair with words began, it was the day my sister explained to me that a letter makes a sound and sounds make the words we say and the words under the pictures in my book told a story that was different from the pictures. When she told me that the words under the pictures were more interesting, more exciting, more amazing than I could make up from the expressions of the animal characters chasing one another through some trees, she blew my mind.
A picture may tell a thousand words, but a story has the potential of millions of pictures.
Which reminds me, the jingles and perfectly aligned pictures people post of their lives aren’t the whole story.
I feel better now, I’ve spent an hour reminiscing about tomato soup, and about my love of words, and facing my fear of making mistake and falling prey to one of my main dis-eases, procrastination, and I feel I can safely leap to the ground on my bare feet and walk the earth.
And I have nothing to offer except what I know in my very soul – you and me, we are uniquely alive in this moment in history. And we have the opportunity to write our own story. And how amazing is that?
We don’t need to do anything we don’t want to do.
We only have to do what we love.
I love to write. I think there may be a few mistakes in this, but I’m going to post it anyways.
And I hope if you read this it encourages you to find your way to doing something you love. Whether it be writing or making soup and sharing it with friends.
I really, really do.
PS. This is my last blog post indefinitely. From here on in I’m spending all my writing time on my books and songs.