Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Trap of Doubt, Delay and "Discipline"

Recently, I met with one of my writing feedback groups. Most of the folks in this small group are working on memoir, which is a supremely difficult genre. One woman in particular is writing a very hard tale about a very small but potent part of her life - a year or so of mental health struggles in which she lost most of her support network. It's a poignant story, and she tells it very directly.

Since she has begun, she's written with great momentum, clear about what comes next, able to pile through very tricky scenes with great ease. Then she hit some doubt - a moment of not being sure where the story was going next, or what the point was in writing/sharing it. And then she hit some stress - way too many external and internal stressors coming together at the wrong time. Her actually writing got delayed - put on the back burner - by a few months, due to illness and literal, physical inability to write. It's also inevitable that such an intense story would bring up doubt, eventually.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your Inner Critic's Secret Tool

I met with a new client the other night. We chit-chatted, since she's been a student before, and we wanted to catch up. Then I got a glass of fresh water and sat back down and said:
"So. How can I help you?"
She had come to me looking for my "writing advocate" services, supporting her regular practice - which has since the class fallen by the wayside. She gave an opening line worth a million dollars:
"My latest reason for not writing is..."

We both burst out laughing. She is a smart woman, and knows what her mind is up to.
This is the first - and a very, very important step. She gets her own game - she makes up reasons not to write but they aren't the real reasons she's not writing. She's not writing because she has to be accountable to someone else. And like so many people, she thinks she shouldn't have to ask for help.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Recycling Grief

"If that younger self inside you is the only one who responds to grief, then you end up doing what I call "recycling grief," because that younger self doesn't have the capacity to handle it." 
-Francis Weller, interview in October 2015 issue of The Sun

I don't have much to say about this yet. I am still mapping it all out, and figuring out what will resist mapping. But something is shifting in me, deep inside. After I read these lines by Weller, I realized another piece of it - the grief my inner child self has carried for so long - ostensibly for my mother and father, who died when I was so young - is slowly transferring to my adult self. 

It is a delicate procedure, a handling of an egg without a shell. Slick and delicate membrane of feeling and all that I couldn't feel when I was younger. Raw sadness without labels or names. Yesterday, on a walk through the Wingra creek portion of he Arboretum, I felt the lowlands marshy-ness, the high oak hill. I knew all of this is natural, suddenly, with full feeling. A relief. I can have this grief in the world, for the world - not just about my loss, but about all loss.

It's hard to describe, but ascribing my specific sadnesses to the larger current moment helps me both feel more specifically and directly, and also with fewer labels. I can just feel. And that feels amazing.

No more recycling grief. Feeling a fresh sadness now, so what comes from before can move through and on. I don't expect less sadness in the future because of this. But perhaps clearer sadness, less muddled by story and yet with better insight into past and present.