Free to Write

Today is the 4th of July – Independence Day.

I wanted to write about some of my favorite July 4th memories for you.

I’ve lived and traveled across this nation quite a bit in my lifetime, and I’ve got a cache of Independence Day stories to choose from.

I’ve watched rockets blast over the top of Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I’ve had the thrill of a five-star fireworks show in the heart of downtown Mesa, Arizona.

I’ve seen spectacular bursts of color and noise over a cornfield in Iowa, over the inky waters of a lake in Pennsylvania, and over the football field of my high school stadium.

As a small child I knew ecstatic terror lying on the roof of my family’s station wagon with my older sister while we watched the fireworks show in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Ash rained down on us, and smoke filled the air, while my ears rang from the booming explosions.

Yes, if I needed to pick a single day of the year to base my memoirs on, July 4th would certainly offer plenty of writing fodder.  (Hey, wouldn’t that be an interesting way to recount a life, a year at a time, using the same calendar day of each year as a touchstone?  But I digress…)

I couldn’t seem to make any of these stories happen, not right now, anyway.

Lately writing, usually a source of joy for me, became hard.  The words, which until a few weeks ago, flowed effortlessly, suddenly dried up.  I have fretted, and worried and obsessed over my lack of inspiration.

It occurs to me now, with the gift of hindsight, that I had turned my source of joy into a chore.  I decided (not sure when, and not sure why, but I decided, that is obvious!) that writing was MY JOB, and that if I wasn’t producing SIGNIFICANT work, IMPORTANT work, and, most of all, LENGTHY work, I wasn’t very good at my job.

It might even mean I wasn’t a writer.

I can’t begin to tell you how much this upset me.  Perversely, I kept trying to force it, to bully good writing out of my brain and onto the page.  I became obsessed with the number of words I had written (or NOT written) each day, the number of hits on my blog, and how many ideas I could generate to write about.

And everything inside of me froze.  Dried up.  Evaporated.  How could I possibly write about Independence Day when I was being held captive by my own expectations?  Independent was the last thing I felt; my inner censor had stifled my words.  I was a hostage to my worst critic — my own mind.

Then, by chance (if there is such a thing), I found a book on my shelf that I didn’t even know I owned.  It’s not a new book; if you write, you likely have heard of it.  The book is The Right to Write by Julia Cameron.  I flipped through it casually, not intending to get into it, but then I found myself pulled into the pages.

This book helped me to remember something important, something I can’t believe I would let myself forget:  I don’t write because it’s my job; I write because it’s who I am.  Writing helps me reflect and discover.  It reminds me that I am me, the only me there is in the world.  It helps me piece together my thoughts, and dreams, and what I want, or don’t want.  It’s a joy to write, and if I’m finding it to be a chore, then I’m probably doing it wrong.

Except – it can’t be done wrong.  Not really.  How wonderful is that?

So, I’m writing again — not my best writing, but who cares?  Not me.  I’m smiling anyway.

Suddenly, it is starting to feel like Independence Day after all!

We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living.  Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding.  We should write because writing is good for the soul.  We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.”

– Julia Cameron

4 thoughts on “Free to Write

  1. Well said! I think anything creative gets hard to do if you make it a chore.
    (About your book idea, have you read “One Day” by David Nicholls? He uses that technique very well)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s