I can always find a reason not to write. But the mornings I take the time to do it, however short, I feel more myself. Writing lets me sort through the fog of what I’m thinking to access my feelings. Writing grounds me.
I used to write only in long hand. Pen on paper drawing out a line of reason as if my thoughts were the ink itself. Now my mind has become just as adept at translating itself through typing as through handwriting. And sometimes I think even moreso since typing with both hands accesses both sides of my brain.
Yesterday I had lunch with someone I’ve long admired, who shares my love of writing.
“I haven’t had time to write in a long time,” she said. I thought back to graduate school, when I felt the same way. Joan Woodward, one of the reasons I moved to California to study, had suggested reading Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. In it, Lamott makes her case for writing a little every day, even if for only ten minutes.
Skeptical of this approach, I finally began doing it myself a few years ago. Before waking the children, before morning yoga, before showering and dressing for work, I’d wake up and type out my thoughts for a mere half hour each morning. I’d get a page or so in that time. If I was really flowing, I’d stretch out my time to 40 minutes or even an hour, and skip yoga. Some weekends I’d take the whole morning, or a day if the kids were at their dad’s.
I wrote a book that way. It took a whole year to find the structure. Another to write it out. And another for revisions. But what a great exercise for someone who had only tackled 20 page stories before. When I started I didn’t know whether I had it in me to write a book. Now I know I’ve got much more.
In the end, the writing isn’t about the finished story at all. It’s about the process of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and opening the door to my thoughts and feelings. I know several people who will smile and nod their head in agreement over a lesson hard-learned:
It’s about the process.