Sunday, November 12, 2017

On finishing, writer's guilt, snacks

It's November 12, 2017, 20 years plus a day since Joe and I started being an item, and I'm writing from a tiny kitchen table in Ashtabula, surrounded by woods and frost and knotty pine.

The foundation of this post, saved as a placeholder but never published 10 months ago, when 2017 was still young:

I have some aspirations for this year... among them, reviewing more books, maybe writing one, writing more about Biblical musings, perhaps building a little community around this blog. I'd like to save up to visit a friend in a gorgeous, far-flung and slightly dangerous place. I'm in the process of training to be a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line. I'm also in my sixth week of an extended Ignatian retreat called the 19th Annotation... and I have mixed feelings about it thus far.
My word for this year... as uninspiring as it sounds, is "Finish."
See, I have a nasty habit of dreaming up lots of things and never finishing them... sometimes never even starting them. But for now, I want to focus on simply finishing what I've started and worrying about the things I haven't started later :-)
And I want to finish well. I want the divine sigh of relief that accompanies God's voice saying "Well done, good and faithful servant..." at the end of my course.

Sometime not long before I started drafting the above post, Trump got elected.

This garish new light on democracy put me in mourning for several weeks. My soul sat around in the dust and rent sackcloth and fasted the Internet. I felt traumatized. Blindsided. Nauseated.

Then, after a little while, gasping back the air that had been knocked out,  I decided I needed to do something. I needed to apply love to all the hate, to live creatively, not destructively or judgmentally. I would take to heart and action the words of Galatians 6:1-5 (MSG)

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

It would seem creative love expands in the doing. So I applied and trained with Crisis Text Line, and started volunteering as a counselor, helping people cool down from their boiling points, to put away their guns, blades and pills and instead take deep breaths and recollect the good. Then I applied for and was offered a full time job at a nonprofit in downtown Cleveland. Now I write for a living and type as a volunteer. These aren't airtight excuses for why I've been entirely absent from my creative ambitions of nascent 2017. But that's the practical side of what happened to Emily The Writer these past several months.

The impractical side looks something like this:

She's been wandering around in her brain tinkering and muttering to herself, not writing all that much. Unsure of whether she should go back into those rooms she knew so well, and whether to open the new doors that have appeared or to tread softly down freshly discovered corridors. Might they lead outside into the fresh bright daylight or into a version of myself I've been wanting to meet? Or something more sinister and upending? Maybe I'll just head back to the kitchen to get a snack instead.

And so six months or so into the new job, a coworker asked if I still find time to do creative writing. Time? Ha! I dodged the question by asking a question, since that's what journalists do. After all, are we talking fiction (at which I suck and will only do if Son One asks me to write him a birthday Minecraft story with himself as the protagonist) or creative non-fiction, which I try to do most days in my handwritten journals that never see the light of day. As we both have jobs and kids and mortgages, my coworker let me off the hook easy. But I couldn't quite shake the question.

Fast forward some weeks and I'm here on my unofficial 20th-anniversary-of-being-a-couple getaway with my Writer Husband, and I thought it could be my ribbon-cutting back into some semblance of a writing life. I'd find solitude in the wind-whipped woods. Let the muse swoop back in and nest, hopefully to lay a nice round blog post.

As I envisioned it, yesterday was to be my return to beholding and reflecting, my resurrection day. But... I somehow found it much more satisfying to eat lots of snacks and read a book I've been meaning to reread since the first time I read it as a geology major in college. It's a 650-page book about North American geology and geologists. And it won the Pulitzer. So, you know, very important reading that I have to catch up on right now. God help me.

That was yesterday. I sit now in the dark of a snackless Sunday morning, fingers chicklet-ing out much less of a master post than I'd hoped, because even if the writing is mediocre, it feels good to sink myself in and finish something.

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