But still it’s blue wing
I admire most
— from “Wisdom or the Hungry Thing” by Eloise Klein Healy
It’s tidy, this thing we want . . . this thing we think we want. Controlled, boxed up. With clearly defined edges that don’t blur or tangent away, a strange angle in our carefully scribed circle. Much less a wing into a memory . . . or pain.
We want lists and focus. Tidiness (tides are never easy) wrapped up in plastic.
But it’s that loose edge on the bottom, the on that is crinkled up on itself. That one we pull and find unfurling like magicians ruby and azure ribbons. We tug again and find bluebird wrings and the soft green of algae.
We find our mothers crying into powder yellow handkerchiefs as they bend over the washing machine for just a moment longer. Stuffed into work so the fear and grief does not catch them.
We do not know from where these things arise – a fiery, magenta lava at the tips of our lungs or a frozen stream that crackles at the right back of our mind.
But come they do, untidy and out of the country like the most beautiful children. And we do well to let them run dusty and free. The Pigpens of beauty . . . that is writing.
Here are my three best pieces of advice (learned from great writers before me) to help writers get past our desire to make these neat and tidy.
1. Write with a pen or pencil. Take a sheet of paper or a page in a journal and just begin to write. Be sloppy. Don’t stay on the lines. Let your hand flow as fast as it can and see what pours forth.
2. Write the next thing without thinking. Don’t think through things. Don’t censor yourself as you write. Don’t question why the image of your mother crying over the washing machine came up. Just write. The best things lie beyond where you know to find them. Let go and trust the words.
3. Write further. When you think you are done, when you feel like you’ve captured that moment, that idea, that image . . . keep going. It’s the next thing that matters, the one beyond what you already know. Write to there . . . and to there again.
What do you do to let go when you write?
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