A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.” Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist. – Natalie Goldberg
This morning, as I write this post in the dark house before anyone else awakens, my truth is a bouquet of quickly fading flowers that my dad brought me in honor of my book launch last week, a high chair parked haphazardly next to this dining room table, the one bottle on the counter that my son didn’t wake to drink last night.
Life here in this farmhouse is so beautiful right now, but it is also so very much. I had not realized how very full our lives were until we added another human to our space and our schedules. As my friend Abby says about herself and I agree, I am a person with a high capacity, but motherhood, glory! Motherhood has filled every nook and cranny of my capacity in the hardest and most glorious ways of my life.
But I will tell you one thing, this new leg of the winding journey of life has taught me one thing – writing is absolutely essential to my health and to my capacity for joy in this life.
Here’s how I know.
I wrote the draft of Silence at the Lock during NaNoWriMo in November. I gave it rest, and then I revised soon after. Holidays came and went. I sent the book to a wonderful editor. I started promoting. I worked with my amazing cover designer. I kept promoting. I went head-on into this plan to write more books and market them more effectively. I kept promoting.
I did that for four months, and while I do write here on this blog and dig as deeply as possible into words with the notes to our writing community, I didn’t write deeply often enough. I started to feel it. My husband started to notice it. I felt off. I felt stressed. I felt weighed down by everything.
Last week on the day before launch, I had the worst day. I woke up to discover I’d forgotten to take out my contacts and my eyes were glued shut. Milo fell and hit his head. I backed into a car at the local post office. The ATM wouldn’t take my money. . . it was all too much, and I sat in the parking lot of our local and amazing Mennonite market and sobbed. You know those sobs – the racking ones that climb up from the lower lobes of your lungs. Those sobs. In a parking lot. Facing a highway.
I was squeezing the straggly tips of the end of my rope with all my might, and I was pretty sure I was going to fall. Book launching is stressful – at least for me – and I was losing it. But the worse was yet to come.
The Crux of the Problem
Launch day came, and the numbers weren’t awesome. If you saw my post last week, you know that those first day’s return’s disappointed me a bit. Then, I ran those numbers, and I felt better.
So that night, I started the new book. I gathered a team of folks excited to help me prepare it and share it. I began again with the process, which some may think is mentally unwise. . . but here’s the thing – the writing is what saves me. It’s the gift I’ve been given, the tool I’ve been handed to steer my course through life. It is what keeps me balanced and what gives me focus. It is what I can control in this wild life of writing.
Here’s how I know it’s working, that writing is bringing me back to a place of balance and understanding. My sales have stopped. Wholesale. Completely. I haven’t sold a book – any book – in four days. That’s disconcerting, and I’m doing some things and thinking hard about others to change that.
But I’m not broken by this turn. I am grounded in the words because they are – again – what I do. They are the path I have been graced to walk, and when I walk that path through ink on paper, I am healthier always. The world feels more manageable. All the very full nooks and crannies of a 10-month-old beauty of a boy pulling everything we own off of whatever it sits on become backlit with glory because I am doing the work.
So here’s my reminder to all you writers out there. We need to market. We need to strategize. We need to publish and network and newsletter and tweet. Those are parts of our job as writers now. But for us, for the people we were designed to be in this world, we need to write. Regularly. Even when it means filling evenings or very early mornings or naptimes with words. I trust that our work matters beyond us, too. It matters for the people in this world who need our books . That’s how this works, isn’t it? I do my thing, and someone else does theirs, and the world is better for it.
Make the world better, friends. Make yourself better. If writing is your thing, do it. We all need it. Especially you. Especially me.
I’m about to go grab that wonder of a baby out of bed and try to slide some clothes on his wriggling body. I’ll probably compost the dying flowers later today, and the high chair will travel about the dining room with said baby. All beautiful. All story. My story to live . . . and to write. Oh, it’s a beautiful thing.
Tell me, if you would, what writing does for you? Does it balance you? Give you focus? Feed you? Or not?