“A writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” ― Burton Rascoe
I have a shameful admission. I haven’t been writing. I’ve dabbled a handful of nights since I finished my NaNoNovel in November, but no real writing. Not dedicated. No long stream of conscious nights staring into space while my fingers move across the keyboard, messaging words on to the screen. It just hasn’t happened.
And I’ve been beating myself up over it. Black and blue.
Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” This is the justification I give myself as the nights pass without words. In hindsight, I’ve had one hell of a year. This time last year, I was resigned to my life in Watertown, South Dakota working a job that I had long outgrown, remodeling a house that took endless work, mowing far too large of a yard, gardening, quilting, and numerous other activities and daily minutia that I found myself dreading. It wasn’t until the end of May when I hit the end of my rope and had to decide whether or not I hung on or let go.
I never thought letting go would be the more difficult choice.
Fast forward to today when I realize how worth the loneliness, quiet desperation, and loss has been. My son and I have never been happier. This knowledge has lead me to question why it is, as happy as I am, that I cannot write. Everything I put on paper reads trite and without coherency. So, I give up until a few weeks later when I try again. And the cycle continues as I make my way in this new world of Wisconsin. I can, like any one, use the excuse of time, for which we humans never have enough. Though time tracked on the internet might say otherwise. I sometimes wish for a time before technology when only the sound of spring rain tapped on the roof at night. But technology is just an excuse. I’m sure a pile of knitting would have been my excuse in another time. Or that the fire needed more wood. Anyone who makes excuses can find something to justify lack of attention.
The real reason I’m not writing now is that I’m too busy living, something that I’m not sure I did enough of in my past life. So I’ll stick with that justification, using Thoreau as my source of wisdom.
I’ve made peace with that. Like any good writer, the process of writing doesn’t always manifest itself in the black on white glaring from the screen. Sometimes, writing is staring out a window. Listening to the story of a new friend. Walking down a new street. Choosing a new life.
I’m smack dab in the middle of a new play with a local community theatre group. The play, “Grace and Glorie” by Tom Ziegler, is about a Hospice volunteer and her elderly, dying patient. It’s a two person play, which means that there isn’t a minute when the stage lights are on that I am not on stage. Two people and a lot of words somehow have to entertain an audience for an hour and a half.
And I learn. As I memorize the bajillion lines, I learn from Mr. Ziegler how to use pace in a story. Without his incredible pacing that jerks the characters from joy to anger to fear and back to joy again, not necessarily in that order, this story could be an hour and half snooze fest. Thankfully, Mr. Ziegler does it. And he does it well.
So while it may seem as if I’m not writing, I am. Although I may be lacking the motivation to sit at the computer and pound out some words, I still see the world through the eyes of a writer. In the end, it’ll be worthwhile. I’ll be reopening “Itsy’s Ugly” as soon as the play is done. While I’ve been staring out the window, or being glorious on stage, I’ve figured out what I need to do to make the story shine. Characters unavailable to me crept out from the shadows and began talking.
May 7th, I return to my roots. Until then, I’m going to try living out loud.
Make that May 8th. Even God rested on the 7th day.