Or papyrus. I might prefer papyrus since it’s not animal skin, and I love the scratch of a pen.
I crave the privacy to write quiet. To put thousands of words on the page before anyone sees them. To be able to write out ideas and positions, arguments and stories for days, months, years before anyone reads them.
In our culture, so much of writing is public and fast – like this blog post, which I will draft and share with only the lightest edit. So much is about getting a response or earning a dollar, both of which are fine things that can come from writing. Yet, they are not the main things.
The main gift of writing is the writing itself, the quiet slide into a rhythm of words that feels like walking along Lake Windermere in spring. The pace is slow and dotted with bird flight and the glisten of fish skin below the water. We tire, at moments, and sit on a fence rail, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, feed a duck. Then, we trek on, wandering through sheep pastures and across hand-built bridges, the glimpse of butterflies in flight can steal our breath. We enjoy the experience because it is singular in purpose – to travel the lake, to write the poem, to draft the novel.
Now, I find myself writing with my arms a little stiff, braced against the keyboard because so much can come back so quickly. So much critique. So much anger. So much enthusiasm even. And often, I’m not ready for any of it. The work is too close to my skin, still. It feels as if it’s still written on and in me.
In this time of stepping back,I’m going to slow down more. Share only what I’m ready to share and treasure up the rest, reams of parchment and papyrus bound in journals that loving people have bought me at bookstores. I’m going to write pages with the curve of my fingers on ink and enjoy the staccato of the keyboard keys. And no one will see most of them.
Maybe we make a mistake now in thinking that our work is only valuable if other people read it. Maybe we need to know that sometimes the audience we first need to please is ourselves.
Do you feel the push to share what you’ve written too soon? Do you ever feel like you get caught up more in the audience than the art?