Slow Writing

Image by Jan Kahanek from Unsplash

It is slow, often a slog, but never absent. The process of the thing, at times, more intriguing to me than any product that comes out of the writing. Sentences, I wonder, do they form me or do I form the sentences?

Now, early, a post-holiday morning and the gulf opens between the time it takes to get across the room to find pen and any scrap of paper, and the spark racing down from mind to fingertip. Let this have a chance to exist before it is lost under the waking shuffle of socked feet, the clatter in the kitchen; my husband and brother making coffee and eggs, percolating this day into the bustle of being.

I can’t do it any differently than I do. As for the discipline of writing, I do my best. Without it nothing would happen. To say what gets in between me and the doing would be an endless list of physical complaint. All of the limits of vision, of pulled ligament, of twisted bone. The limits are why it is both a) slow and b) nothing like it was. It was: A frenzied fugue of words, without regard to the cold cups of tea, the red wine glasses staining book covers and the scatter of yesterday’s clothes and shoes on the floor.

But equal to discipline and now more essential: The sacred space that must be protected for the connection, for that which did not exist before, to arrive. Without that the discipline alone would ultimately result in an empty pursuit.

Many days I want to put the page down and ‘just’ fold the laundry. At first it will be welcomed, something simple to complete. But I won’t just be folding the laundry, even though, as tasks go, it’s one of my fondest. Because memory enters and I am sitting with my mother on our big sofa after school while she watches the afternoon talk shows, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas and then years later, when she got sick, Oprah. It was there she taught me how to fold laundry, beginning with my sibling’s diapers. The western afternoon light slanting across the walnut floors, always polished to a luster. I loved those white cotton fluffy folded squares, smelling of detergent and simplicity. A lasagna or tuna casserole in the oven, the warm smell of food in that hour before cocktails, or wine, or whatever else she would turn to in those years before it all went wrong.

Could the simplicity of the laundry ever be enough, could I be filled by it? No, and I don’t question my choice to pursue what feels so difficult, and because I never make it through the heaped pile anyway. I will think I am matching socks but really, I am waiting for the structure of the words to reveal themselves. Inevitably, I will stop and walk up the three steps back to my desk. I won’t remember that transition; I will just find myself there again.

The truth is it is the struggle of writing that keeps me connected to something larger. I see that now. When the idea manifests, rises seemingly from nothing, and lands. That is enough.

Writing, fundamental to my life? Yes, but now it is more of a defiance in the face of limits, a stubborn refusal to stop. Or perhaps more like the stubborn gladness that Elizabeth Gilbert describes. Choosing to keep toes wiggling in the universal creative waters is a decision I make anew each day. To make myself deaf to the call again, would be a cost too great. And all of this, occasionally joyful, and at times painful persevering, I will continue to do without any delusion that my voice is “of a generation.”