Writing, Breathing, Thinking

Writing, breathing, thinking—emphasis on “thinking”, and not necessarily in that order—are the essential elements of a writer’s waking hours.

Lately I’ve been filling out Writer Residency applications, and this especially leads me to a lot of thinking about writing and why I write. I look at the notes—my notes, my opinions—that I’ve written in the spreadsheet columns of my previous year’s application records.
“Terrible artist statement.” “Decent project description.”
I don’t shy away from the failures. They’re mostly failures. I keep trying to improve.

I couldn’t stop writing now if I tried.

And like the old shampoo bottle adage of the 60s, “lather, rinse, repeat,” with each round of applications, I examine myself closer and closer, not looking for flaws—because that’s easy—but instead, looking for my strengths. We can write in our garret or vacuum or basement or bedroom, but no one will ever know what we have to share unless we can convey our strengths to the gatekeepers of the publishing world.

So we keep going, and we try to express it better, stronger.

When I awaken, whether it’s at 4:30 or 6:30 or somewhere in between, I reach for my laptop and my coffee, and get to work.

I couldn’t stop writing now if I tried.

When I gave myself permission to write my childhood memoir, when I unlocked the door to my deepest memories, everything poured out like the Flood of ’55 in New England. I saw the good memories and silly memories bobbing in the dark water, carried along under grey skies, the fears and fantasies, everything moving past, fast and faster. I could barely keep up. I typed as fast as I could, sometimes dropping single words into a parallel document because I was afraid of losing the memories as the momentum grew.

I couldn’t stop writing now if I tried.

I mostly write about what’s inside of me. Who would have thought that we could keep thinking for this many years and have all of those thoughts piling up inside our brains, indiscriminately filling cell after cell with content?

I couldn’t stop writing now if I tried.


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