Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Blank Page

Yesterday, digging weeds from my new yard, the earth grounding me, the warmth of the sun chasing away some lingering emotional blahs, a first sentence comes to me and, suddenly, out of the blue, and for a brief exhilarating moment, I remember the magic of writing. The unique power of words to examine, transport, reveal, purge, express, transform. How place and time, experience and emotion mysteriously come alive through the simple—and sometimes oh so difficult—act of putting words to paper.

A few years ago I wrote a novel. It was about a young woman whose heart had been broken. Old story, but intimate when it’s your own. I was twenty-two when Married-But-Separated Prince Charming swept me off my feet, only to leave four months later to return to his wife and son. On some fundamental level, I never got over it. Despite actively working to heal, rarely, not even decades later, not even married with children, did a day pass that I did not think about this man and the pain and fallout from the relationship. Thirty-some years later, following a dream I’d long held, I sat down to explore writing and much to my surprise, it was the only story that would come out of me. After the third try I gave into it, and a year and a half and three hundred and fifty-one pages later, in a fictionalized but emotionally autobiographical, awkward, shitty first draft, I’d told—actually retold—the story. In it, I gave my character a voice where I had lacked one, empowered her where I had been rendered powerless, and it changed everything. Amazingly, surprisingly, overnight (!) he/it disappeared—almost completely—from my radar. And I got the lesson first-hand about how cathartic writing can be, and its incredible power to heal and transform. I had journaled for years, but it was the act of writing it all down in story form that somehow gave it the power to change.

Yesterday morning I got it that I need to write again. I mean seriously and like I did before; daily, with priority, commitment and discipline. Out there in the hot sun I recalled with startling clarity what it was like to create and imagine, to be immersed, forgetting everything except the moment, the word, the scene, the feeling longing to be conveyed. I remembered the excitement and exhilaration, the challenge and frustration, the energy and aliveness. And more than anything else, the deep satisfaction of the creative process.

It hit me that more than merely a way to navigate the minefield of change and transition, perhaps I could literally write myself back to life again. Banish the blahs, thaw the numbness. Write away the grieving, disappointment, lostness, and fear. Create anew, invent/reinvent, and re-imagine my moments and days, my life, future, hopes, dreams, and desires--through the concrete act of writing.

Oh, how exciting! Until I faced the blank page this morning... So scary and intimidating, and reminescent of these last two years, when creativity in all forms seemed near impossible; when all life energy funneled into simply surviving, when imagination went missing, and words, for the most part, dried up.

So here I sit in front of The Blank Page. The Clean Slate, the Brand New Canvas. Scary, whether real or symbolic. But also, stirring, and full of possibilty and potential. And perfectly appropriate, I see now, thinking how pulling the weeds and clearing the land creates the space for my new garden to come into being. Plant by plant. Word by word.