“Writing is not measured in page counts, I now believe,
any more than a writer is defined by publication credits.
To be a writer is to make a commitment to the long haul,
as one does (especially as one gets older) to keeping fit and healthy
for as long a run as possible.” – Bill Hayes
Once again, I’m back after a lengthy absence. I don’t know if this is what normally happens to someone who tries to write a memoir, but somehow it happened to me: after resurrecting with one blog post, the blogging life again took a back seat to the point that I forgot all about it. As for the memoir, after finishing the first draft and reconnecting the dots in my life that were erased over the years, I could not find any reason why I should write a second draft. Writing the first draft was fun and meaningful but it was also stressful.
It was fun because of the wonderful memories that bubbled out of my psyche. It was meaningful because of realizations that led me to change some aspects of my life. It was stressful because there were those memories that one would rather forget that also demanded their space on the pages. I also designated a specific time in the day as “memoir hour” which I vowed to keep. More often than not I had to rush whatever it was I was doing to keep my appointment with the memoir. What was fun and meaningful soon became stressful towards the last leg of the writing process. When it was over, every muscle in my body ached for rest from writing.
I thought that after a lengthy vacation from the memoir I would be able to go back and work on it again. Strangely though, I just couldn’t find any spark of inspiration for any kind of writing. Sometime during the fourteen months of writing the first draft, my mind somehow began to associate writing with stress. Writing had become a tedious chore.
As an energy therapist, I have learned to trust and flow with the energy, so I stopped writing. But I missed journaling and very now and then I picked up my nature journal and wrote about how confused the narra and acacia trees were; how summer was rainy then very hot as it should be, then rainy again. I wrote on a few pages of my spiritual journal as well.
Then for three months, I stopped writing altogether. At first I felt relief and was grateful that I had more time for rest. But towards the end of the third month, I noticed a void inside me. First it was a dot, then it started to get bigger. As it grew, the void began to tether precariously towards depression. It took a while before I realized that not writing was what was causing this dark space to grow, so I wrote a few pages on my journal. Bursts of joy leapt from deep within. I had always loved writing, but that was the first time I realized how much writing meant to me and how it was a source of joy in my life. When one’s day job involves helping people resolve their problems, one has to have a resource that brings joy. For me it was writing. But when writing became work, it could no longer serve its purpose. I have since made a vow: I will never again put pressure on my writing life.
So I’ve been journaling again. I have also managed to find the inspiration to begin working on the second draft of the memoir. Note: I am working on it, not writing it. Not yet. I realized that the crafting phase requires more skills, many of which I don’t have so I am taking the time to learn the skills before I begin to craft.
Realizing what writing means to me has helped me become more confident about my writing life. I am now more relaxed and don’t oblige myself to write daily at the same time each day. No word counts either. Sometimes I write in one journal. There are days when I just feel like composing a haiku. Or maybe a haibun. Today I have more time, so I am writing a blog post.
I am also not rushing through the memoir writing process and have completely removed the goal of publishing from my bucket list. I have bought a couple of books about creative non-fiction. I pick them up when I feel like it. I am slowly learning more about creative non-fiction and I am falling more deeply in love with this genre. Life feels good.
“In some cases, it is not just the writing that needs a breather but the writer, too,” writes Bill Hayes in his article On Not Writing, which was published five years after he began writing it.
Hayes explains: “I started writing this essay five years ago, and then I stopped. That I was not able to finish the piece did not strike me at the time as ironic but as further proof that whatever I once had in me — juice, talent, will — was gone. In any case, completing it would have made moot the very point I was attempting to make: Not writing can be good for one’s writing; indeed, it can make one a better writer.”