My writing equipped me with a sense of connection during the lonely seasons of middle school and high school. Angsty teenage journals that were never meant to be read gave me the sensation of talking to a trusted friend. Blogging from my couch after grad school gave me a sense of purpose as I floated in the abyss of unemployment. No matter how far the move, how lonely the evening, how hot the tears – there was always a pen and paper that would soak up some of those heavy feelings.
My writing captured levity, too, and learning. Chronicling weekend getaways and months of pregnancy anchored me in the present as I wrote and encapsulated the memory so that I could live it again and again. Regardless of these gifts, or perhaps because of them, I’ve taken my writing for granted in many ways. I’ve forgotten where and how I learned. When I rustle around, I decide it’s just been picked up from reading (a lot). Structurally, I can thank Mrs. Cleveland for the handful of grammatical musts that I internalized (or else) in 9th grade English. My reward for being an avid reader and writer was to move into advanced English courses where I wrote to persuade a reader on a pre-selected topic, analyzed literature I didn’t care about, and drafted personal essays for college entry. The ultimate bonus was testing out of freshman English in college, allowing me to earn a Bachelor of Arts without ever reading a work of fiction, let alone writing one.
It’s unfortunate that it never occurred to me to take a writing course for fun. The upside, however, is that isolating my writing life from my academic life kept it sacred and safe. This past year, I’ve pressed into my writing more urgently and more regularly. It’s become strong enough for me to step away from the expository style of blogging and reveal something personal on occasion. I’ve found myself hungry for a community of writers and I was fortunate to find one locally, in Women Writing for (a) Change. A few quick weeks after joining a writing circle, I decided to attend a writers’ conference here at Indiana University. I was starving for the opportunity to sit and learn from published authors. I was aching to be in a lecture hall again, too, and hungry for feedback on my work. So, last week I spent five days wrestling with craft and habits alongside a dozen other writers. When I walked out of our little room in Woodburn Hall for the last time, I knew I’d found something I’d been looking for for a very long time.
If this post feels as though it’s leading up to something, then I’ve met my aim. You’re caught up – you’re alongside me now. This is all I know: As I make more space for writing, the yield grows. I harvest self-knowledge, connection, wisdom, and yes – more yearning. Motherhood feels like an inconvenient season for my own desires, and yet nurturing my creativity has been single-handedly the most meaningful ritual of self-care I’ve sustained since my daughter was born. I’ll be teasing apart this duality in future posts. Until then, a quote I love: