Today I met up with my writing compañero Dave. It’s a good thing to have a scheduled time and place for writing and a person who is expecting me to show up. It’s like committing to anything that’s challenging: make time, make space, demonstrate accountability. Showing up is more than half of the work. There’s no way around that showing up bit.
It should come as no surprise that the way I write is the way I live. They are both mind-bogglingly difficult at times, and I’m often afraid to formulate words, put myself out there, and get it wrong. But get it wrong I will, again and again and again. (My friend Marlowe has even exhorted me to do myself a favor and get it wrong the first time around. She didn’t say anything about the 27th time around.) The most I can hope for is to occasionally hit upon a beautiful phrase, a shining moment, a few reminders to myself that I did the best I could to be creative, generous, kind, and true.
Neither writing nor life is amenable to doing the equivalent of holding one’s breath, afraid to budge lest bad things happen. Let’s face it; bad things will happen anyway. Might as well allow for some fortuitous things to happen, too.
To that end, I’m resolving to not only show up for writing, but to let it teach me to live differently, to loosen up, to be seriously playful. It doesn’t come easily, people. The times that I’ve been able to really play, with focus and joy and letting go of outcome, are the times that I recall as being the happiest times in my life. I’m seeing “play” in the vein of Csikszentmihalyi‘s descriptions of “flow”—not undisciplined, not carefree, but immersive and exhilarating. (And as an aside: could anyone not love the Hungarian intricacy of a name like Csikzentmihalyi?)
Writing (and life) are teaching me to get rid of the idea of a Master Plan. Yes, I can eventually produce a book. I know I can do this. But it won’t be any good if I don’t let it have its own time and space to evolve, to experiment, to get it wrong a whole bunch of times. It’s a lot of unlearning for me, the one who relied upon getting every paper right the first time in school, editing every step of the way. Inner Wise Woman says: This isn’t a paper, love. This isn’t school. This is so much more important and more rewarding, and not just in the end, but in the beginning. There are no grades here. This is not about fulfilling the expectations of others. This is not about satisfying your inner editor. This is about being Alive.