On Writing

Writing is a muscle that swells and contracts depending on the time of day. I’ve felt the need to write in moments of jazz, moments that take the shape of explosive devices and moments of solitary depression.

Writing is nothing if it is not honest. If writing does not pinch or punch, tear a muscle or leave a bruise then I say forget it.

Writing is damn sexy. Lyrical and vivid, full of nightmares and subconscious memories. It’s my memoir dammnit and I’ll remember what I want to. It’s playful and sometimes even publishable. It’s internal, revealing, isolating and bloated.

Writing brought us closer together. These are the things I never knew you felt.

Writing is subconscious. It’s that dream I had about my grandmother who moaned until the morphine hit, then died in silence.  Only  her skin remained a translucence mother of pearl; her fingernails a fresh coat of hot pink. In the dream, she called me on the telephone and asked how I was doing. Her voice, clear as the freezing of water. She was a writer too.

Writing is investigative. Exposing truth and beauty in a broken world. Ask me what is the point of writing? What is the damn point? Terry Tempest Williams says: Writing is bearing witness. Writing on genocide, hurricanes, prairie dogs and cancer. It will never be enough, but what else do we writers do?

Writing is fucking hard. Sometimes I have no patience for it. Like an old friend I know I must keep, but don’t really want to ever talk to. Yeah, writing is sorta like that. It’s finding the willpower to continue when it stares at you hard in the face pointing out every zit, every wrinkle, every shadow under your eye. It’s there when you clean the bathroom sink in the middle of the day, waiting for you to return.

Writing is stubborn. To keep going to get over the past. I’ve written because I didn’t understand something until I wrote it down.  Got ink to paper until the scribble felt real. I wrote about old friends, lovers, electronic equipment. Anything to move forward. Pull it out of me then wash it away.

When I write I am more alive, and observant of so much more. I see my life, and my surroundings as stories, lessons. Images become sharper, somehow more colorful. The world I know is utterly more painful and beautiful at once. And I am in it. I become more than a shapeless wanderer, but a member who has a story.

Writing forces me to remember things that otherwise would go unnoticed. Like today, how the moon was full and small so high above a grey building. And how the clouds formed a shelf in the sky, moving forward or away, I didn’t know, but that it could have been a mountain. I could have lived in the mountains. And both those things—the moon and the cloud mountains would go un-remembered if I had not written them down.

It’s as if we writers lead double lives. The living, conscious moment, and then the making sense of it. The act of courage to re-live even the most guttural, clawed out experiences so that we connect with the dead or the part of ourselves that needs to be amputated.

Writing is an act of carving out this chaos. Hallowing out the bone and muscle of a moment so that we can see the moment clearer, just the blood flow of it—the heartbeat of it. The softness and ripening of a moment or a story becoming full only as we stumble through the writing of it.

Today I practiced yoga in the heat of a brick colored room. The instructor said: allow your body to contract, to release, to expand. And isn’t that what writing is— a continual contraction, release and expansion. Moments that make up a life, sliced into the way our bodies bend and twist.

And I write toward darkness; an unearthing and tearing down my fears that only my writing life knows how.


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