I started teaching a new course of Creative Writing this week. I forgot how much I love it. My class last spring didn’t fill and was canceled. At the time, I was busy preparing for a book launch, so I was somewhat relieved.
Driving home after class this week, I was energized. It’s so exciting to work with writers who are just beginning their journey. The possibilities are fresh and exciting.
The knowing nods when we talk about the urgent need to write, reassure me. I’m not the only crazy person in my town who feels this compelling urge to bear witness to all the little oddities in my life and heart.
We talked about what we write and why. So many echoed the same sentiment—a voice running through their heads aching to get out on paper. I recognize that insistency. It’s their creative spirit. Everyone has one. That spirit can find its way out in a plethora of ways, but when its left trapped inside, unrecognized and unfed, it can lead to a confused despondency, a sadness borne of a day-after-day sameness.
Writing has saved me time and again. When I am lonely or sad or frustrated or hurt or angry, I take to the page. Most of what I write is not for others to read, but for me to say. I just need to form words around the emotion, name it, put it down there on paper so I can see it.
Somedays that’s all I need and I can leave it there. But some days it compels me to act – to say what needs to be said, in writing or in person. Sometimes I need more time to toss and turn an idea, examine all it sides and angles; those ideas find their way into my stories and sometimes my books.
In my first book, I’m Not Her, I wondered why we so easily judge each other based on appearances or circumstances, most times beyond our control. Why is it we assume to know another’s heart based on how much time she spent in front of a mirror that morning? How can we label a person unworthy of our attention or investment simply because of where they live, how much money they have, or decisions they’ve been forced to make? Many days it seems impossible to truly know the people who live in our own house, so why do we presume to know a person we’ve never even met?
In Girls’ Weekend, which I began writing nearly fifteen years ago, I wondered if motherhood defined me. I was lonely and frustrated, trapped at home with children in a new town with no job. How had my life landed me in this sad place? Was this truly what I wanted? I felt trapped by parenthood, marriage, and a conventional world, so I wrote it out every day at naptime. That book saved me in so many ways. It helped me make peace with the decisions I’d made in my career and family.
In Practicing Normal, I wondered if the people who appear to have their sh*t together, really do. Are their lives as messy and contradictory and painful as my own? What is ‘normal’ anyway, and why should we even try for it? There are so many days we just do what we have to do to get through – pacify people, put in another load of laundry, clean the gunk out of the sink strainer…it’s not exciting. And lots of days all we do isn’t enough and someone is disappointed or even angry. There isn’t time to follow through on our intentions and most days the best we can do is “just keep swimming.” But in the act of ‘practicing normal’, just getting through the days, are we missing out on actually loving the people we love? Jacquelyn Mitchard, said in her blurb for the book (like how I named dropped there?)- “Does facing the truth beat living a lie?”
A good piece of writing comes from deep in your heart. You learn something in the process of writing – about yourself or your world. Teaching creative writing reminds me of this. It reminds me why I write. It pushes me, like I hope I push my students, to dig deep and sit with my questions and fears. To write them out.
I can’t wait to see what is in the hearts and minds of the eight people who will join me every Monday night for a few hours. I can’t wait to see them embrace their creativity and let that spirit romp through their writing. I hope they will be brave and follow it.
How about you? Are you nurturing your own creative spirit?
Hold it in at your own peril.
Thanks for reading!
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And if you like dogs (doesn’t everyone?), check out my dog blog – Another Good Dog where I write about the ups, downs, and lessons learned in fostering rescue dogs. (95 and counting….)
[Heads up to those of you who read on Kindle, for reasons unknown to me, Praticing Normal e-version is on sale for $2.99 right now! Spread the word!]