When I’m confused or upset, when I’m clear or overjoyed, I write. I’ve always done it. I recall a particular day when I was five years old, sitting
cross-legged on the beige and green shag carpeting in our living room,
scribbling in my Cinderella coloring book. It was a stormy day in January and the cast iron radiators were spitting and hissing. Icicles jutted down from the eaves of the roof, solidified in midair. A hush had fallen over the city and all I could hear was the mechanical roar of a snowplow.
I looked around at my family. My parents were sitting in matching upholstered chairs, reading the newspaper, hypnotically handing
sections to each other and dropping them into a pile on the floor. My older sister sat on a chair at the kitchen table, writing a book report on Treasure Island. I felt like the odd girl out as I scanned the crowded bookshelves that climbed from floor to ceiling. I wanted to read and write like my big sister did. I was hungry for the adventures that were hidden among the pages of the books, just waiting for me to discover. And I was hungry to create adventures of my own.
When I first started writing, I was pretty bad at it but I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I wrote stories and sometimes I wrote poetry that rhymed with no expectations or judgments. That’s the gift of being a child. When I got home from school, I’d sit on the little red cane chair in my bedroom with a pen and a pad of paper in my hands and write because I liked it. I did it every day, not because I thought I should. Not because I wanted to shore up my stamina or get approval from anyone. I didn’t fantasize becoming a writer when I grew up. It just felt good so I kept on doing it.
It served me well. When I left home at fourteen years old to pursue my ballet career, I wrote through the loneliness. When I felt invisible, I wrote. During one-night-stand bus tours, I wrote through the tedium. When I trained on bleeding blisters and sprained ankles, I wrote
through the pain. In the sixties, I wrote when I swallowed mind-altering drugs that led me on psychedelic journeys to worlds of wonder. I wrote through the guilt when I cheated with a girlfriend’s boyfriend. When I traveled the world to research the faith healers, I wrote through the astonishment. When I was being battered, I wrote through my suffering and then through my recovery. When I met the loves of my life, I wrote about each of them, when we got together, when I left them or when they left me. Writing was my healing gift and I embraced it with all my heart.
I recently found an old report card from my elementary school in which the teacher had jotted down, “Andrea should not pursue creative
writing. She is not suited.” Thank goodness I didn’t remember that admonishment because if did, I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today. I would have missed the challenge and fulfillment of being creative, even when I wasn’t any good at it.
Writing with abandon and no judgments is what Buddhist call “Beginner’s Mind,” approaching a situation as if you’re seeing it or doing it for the first time. Whether you were good or bad at anything in the past, you might do something fabulous this time if you can leave the past in the past. Some years back, a friend was teaching me how to ride a horse. at first, I was at odds with the animal, bumping along, getting a sore butt as I tried unsuccessfully to post on the saddle, to rise and fall and connect with it. Then one day, I got on the saddle and I felt the rhythm. I connected to the horse’s gait and my friend said, “You found your seat.” If I hadn’t approached it like it was the first time, I would have felt awkward and decided that there was no way I could ever ride a horse.
Here are some of the gifts that writing has given
It got me through Covid.
It distracts me from suffering loneliness.
It encourages me to face my fears.
It gives me an outlet for my emotions.
It gives me the courage to face my fears of inadequacy.
It delivers me to the glorious writing writing zone.
In my life, there is no greater joy than making it into the writing zone. I get to fashion my own private world where I make up the rules, define the boundaries, and I can stay there as long as I like and leave whenever I want. I am judge and jury of my internal reality and I
decide who is welcome and who is not, who is guilty and who is innocent. It’s rare to find a place where you are the sole creator of a reality that is yours and yours alone. It’s a gift to have access to a safe haven, an escape hatch when the world around you seems overwhelming like it so often does these days.
Writing gives you the ability to tell the truth on the page while you empower others to do the same thing. It allows you to do something that has the potential to bring joy, both to you and to someone else. Whether you feel ecstatic or intimidated, inspired or blocked, when you
refrain from deciding if your writing is good or bad, the gift is always the
same – expressing your feelings, overcoming shame, celebrating joy and unburdening your heart.