This is sort of a big question. But a really big curiosity. And I promise that it's not in a judgmental way at all. But I really want to hear what you have to say about it.
The Background: I had some lovely time to read the things I love to read while passengering in the car today. (a rare occurrence these days) Which means mostly catching up on the good reading (namely those that have slipped into my inbox without sufficient reading these last three weeks: Brenna Layne, Sarah P Miller, Suzi Banks Baum, Donna @ Like Medicine For Me, Darcy Eden, Helen @ Weekly Findings, Jennifer @ Stitch + Letter, Cathy Sly, Lauren @ The Leek & The Carrot, Holly Wren Spaulding. Of course, there are always MORE. But I've decided there is joy in discerning (and subscribing) to a small reading world of a small group of very real people who think deeply, notice with pinpointed attention, capture, distill, share, and are always generous to offer the best kinds of questions.) And I was overjoyed to have quiet minutes to read. And I felt inspired and filled with questions and power and curiosity. And I felt that jumble of thought that often arrives as a very physical sensation: Why are we all doing this?
In large part, this is coming from a place of work. As I merge into year three of this whatever-you-want-to-call-it project, and keep writing blindly, and organize SO MANY FILES, and navigate translating all this into a website. At which point, regularly, I ask myself Really. Why are you doing this?
And why is everyone else doing this too. This showing up. This incredibly thoughtful (and fun and joyful and time consuming) practice of writing and sharing. Or sharing photos. Or art. And just how many of us end our missives with questions and hope for replies. Or those Comment boxes. And how many announce workshops we are hosting. Or talk through the perils of trying to get published. Or the perils of just being an alive human being with the ability to think and feel. Why do so many of us show up, in this way, publicly. Online? Of our own volition?
For no reason other than truly just being curious, I want to know why you choose (or compulsively don't choose) to write publicly. (Or, share photos or poems or collages or whatever it is that you do - publicly). Because it is a brave thing. To show up. Because that sheer act of writing and pressing 'publish' or 'send' can take an awful lot of guts and sometimes pounds of (known or unknown) belief and value in ourselves that we and our words are worth it. That they matter. That they have heft and meaning and make some sort of contribution.
And, of course, it's never simple. I know the reasons run the gamut (they do for me). And that they are different for everyone. And that all the reasons can operate on many different levels. And change over time.
I also know it can be complex. I struggle with this, especially after this practice continues, and I begin to question its merit. Now that it's evolved far from the seed that started it. And because it's already served that original emergency lifeboat purpose of safely floating me to calmer shores. Yes. It's about cultivating a practice. A commitment to show up. Simply to just be in the practice of sitting down and arriving every day. Learning to translate my own floaty, haphazard thoughts into words on the page. Practicing that transaction. Courting space and time and magic for the process to occur on a regular basis. And, yes, it all helps me notice and see and focus and distill and translate, and share. It encourages me to think. To push the gears inside my head to grasp onto ideas and mill them into their own, meaningful pieces. To figure them out, to deconstruct. To reconstruct.
But it's become more than that.
It's a form of conversation. Of relationship. A way for this introvert to connect and communicate in a meaningful way. To share in a community of practice with other writers and people who believe in the creative things. To reconnect with friends from around the country. To stay connected. To find the questions that make me leap and ponder and ignite. To not feel so alone in the creative and personal challenges I face. These conversations bolster. I've met more real friends I've never met in real life through this practice and the web of connections it weaves, than I have on the streets I walk every day. And they are some of the best friendships to come my way in ages (and when we get to meet in person it's crazy bonkers awesome. And some of you I feel like I already have met in person even though it's not factually true at all.) Our conversations here are real. The replies are more hearty than a simple click of "like" or "I love this", but they are exchanges of meaning, of shared joy or challenge. Responses of relation. A lot of "yes, AND HAVE YOU HEARD OF...?" or wonderful nudges where you are so kind to share with me how you see outside the small box I have painted for myself. Shared worries and woes. Small celebrations. Thank yous. (Which sometimes almost make me cry.) Aren't those the most important tenets of friendship after all?
But then there is even more. Without readers I don't know if I would have the same commitment to showing up. To actually writing something (even if it's crap) on a regular basis. To have that courage to know that it's worth showing up: both the actual effort to click-clack words onto the page, or that kernel of belief that there is even anything important enough going on here that is worth reading. To simply believe there is value in cataloging what is, to make record of it, as if its pure existence is enough, to say: this is another story. This matters simply because it exists. (I thank you for all the encouragement to just show up as is, that it has meaning. And I reflect all that encouragement right back at you.)
There is, of course, the fact that I am trying to secretly hide from myself the fact that I am trying to write a book. I am trying to sneakily reverse into it through some dimly-lit back door. Like making a beet cake. Or eating gummy vitamins. A small trick-of-mind to avoid panicing each time I sit to write: Oh my god I am writing a book what am I going to write about? - since a whole giant book is an overwhelming thing when approached head on. Now I have two years of stories to draw from, already prototypes, as you provide some added bonus of knowing which ones resonate...because you tell me so.
Oh, but there is the darker side which sometimes is all equally true but is sometimes so much harder to even admit to. (Even to myself.) (And here I will admit it publicly and not die of panic or embarrassment for sharing.) I write into the big, public world (or, ahem, a very teeny tiny corner of the big, public world) because there is no way that this writing, my writing, will ever be anything but my private writing unless it sees the light of day. Yes, I harbor completely irrational and far flung hopes that maybe someone with some power to make things become published or truly become things will stumble upon this and thing HeythisisthebestthingIhaveeverseenlet'sshareitwiththeworld. Or even for it to be shared, more widely, or for anyone to read it. Or keep reading it. All my writing and navel-gazing can't just sit in a shut-tight journal. Because then no one sees it. And then nothing happens. And there is no practice. And I don't get better. (And then we're back to square one.)
And, of course, there is this notion that in order to get 'published' these days (which is somehow becoming a more confusing concept by the hour) you have to have a platform. A Platform, People! It's not just good enough that you write some words that make sense and have proper-ish grammar and make people feel things or have the ability to tell good stories...but you have to be an internet-social-media-someone with a super-stinking-piece-of-shit-sometimes-depending-on-the-person-really-hollow-feeling-online-presence called a fucking PLATFORM in order to be worth a publisher's attention. (Because if people don't already know you before you write a book, how are you going to sell it to a bunch of people who don't know you. And how are you going to generate buzz. Or so they say). So then there has because a giant marketplace for helping writers to make the right platform, or coach you into the right platform and then I just about want to scream. Really fucking scream. Because then that takes all of this (real writing) and squishes it down into something purely quantitative and meaningless and dumb and totally unauthentic. (Let's be clear, when I start referring to things as dumb it means I am tired and no longer ready for prime time, but also really a lot more willing to say what's on my mind.)
And then I ask myself again, Why am I doing this?
And I don't have a lot of fully-baked answers other than a deep sense of faith that this is what I need to be doing now. For all the reasons above. As long as I keep it in scope of something meaningful for me. And that I am growing, slowly, a robust body of work. And equally slowly I am building some sort of vision and vessel to carry all of it. And that whatever it is, it just isn't ready to surface yet. But if I steadily keep writing and researching and sharing and learning and connecting - this thing will slowly shift out of my peripheral vision and into the space right in front of me. These quotes, this writing, the farm, Make Time. But that, no matter what, all that is, is what's here in front of me right now. And I must be happy doing this work, as it is, with what it offers me now, without living in hopes of a future that may be different. I must be in love with the process. And I am so grateful to feel that I am. [Wow, that was probably a very hokie sentence for you to read, but it was an incredibly valuable grounding statement to make and re-marry again.)
I am coming to realize I am slowly building and investing in something that is bigger than what I can envision it to be, something I can't quite catch the vision of yet.
But that if I keep showing up and staying open to whatever appears. Allowing it to unfurl and connect and gain momentum at its own, real pace (and avoid grasping and false starts and untruths in the mean time)...I can hold space (MAKE SPACE) for this just-right thing to unfold and appear exactly as it is supposed to.
[My promise (or my work) is to be genuine and truthful with myself every step of the way.]
oh, goodness - but that was a lot of rambling. What I want to know is about you. Why do you show up to write and share (in all the ways that you do) so publicly? Drop a comment below. I'd love to hear from you. (But you probably knew I was going to say that already.)
- - - - -
House projects today...
- Signed contract. Wrote first check. In theory, in two months I'll have a garage barn. This is a test of the contractor-communication-broadcast-system. Arctic white walls, black trim, black roof. 24' x 40' footprint. Future house of cars, ride on mower, push mower, baby chicks, and future-tractor. BRING. IT. ON.
- Oh, and of course...how can you talk about writing/creating/sharing publicly without talking about THIS. (Mind you, the comparing is not always so much about quality of work, but reach of work and things as shallow as likes and followers and shares which makes me feel like a tremendously shallow human being, and my fear of being a tremendously shallow and hollow human being then compels me to avoid in any way shape or form attempting anything that feels unauthentic regarding sharing and/or promoting what happens here. Even though, let's be honest, I spend flashes of time hoping that magically something will happen and instantaneously everyone and their mother and grandmother will subscribe or follow or share. For right now I will just stand contentedly within the knowing that my own mother and grandmother subscribe, and that's enough for me.) It is a real(ly hard) practice to find that line between being inspired and astounded and compelled and lit-on-fire by those around you, instead of feeling instantly ready to abandon your own voice and practice because they feel so much smaller and less cool than all the other things being liked on the internets.
- Can not believe I have never been inside the Olbrich Conservatory until today. Orchids! Koi! Humidity! Quail! Pitcher Plants! A fun family excursion. Followed by stationery shopping at Anthology (HEARTELL PRESS & Screech Owl Designs) and ramen. YES.
- New word: ETAGERE
- Yet another day when around 8pm Vanessa things Wow, maybe I'll just get into bed and start sleeping earlier than usual.
- Oh, great! Another night Vanessa feels fear when clicking 'send' because she sounds like a crazy person and she doesn't feel like she's articulated her thoughts nearly accurately enough. Commence breathing.
- Today's Original Archive
Just Keep Going. You're On The Right Path. (A note to me + you)