I'm nearly always reading, writing, or reading about writing. As a self proclaimed writer (the only kind I know), I know no other way.
This week, re-reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones, I thought a lot about her chapter on composting. "Bad" writing, words that go nowhere, pieces that don't move-they're still worthwhile. Somehow, they become a layer of fertile soil from which stirring pieces are born. Sometimes it's a line; a single line in a paragraph of otherwise-crap, that bleeds through and sparks much better prose. Everything is worth thinking and writing and turning unto the earth in a blessing for future inspiration.
This concept works because it's not much of a metaphor at all. Shit engenders new life. Shit begets closed doors, followed by open ones. The same way farmers plow their land with literal crap to prepare for future harvests, so too must we-with not only our words and thoughts, our stories-but with every single challenge we encounter.
A cavernous faith is necessary to accept the complex reality that lame, hostile, even horrible things enable the grandest leaps in our evolution. That bullshit and failure can expand the vision and scale of our life in ways that allow us to see new possibility. New solutions. New versions of the future bursting up from the mud.
Composting transforms trash to treasure. The sole, not so secret ingredient is time. Keep writing uninspired pages of boredom and complaint until a breakthrough happens. Keep wading through your crap with the mind state that it will invite wildflowers in the Spring.
Great books on Writing:
1. The Great Spring -Natalie Goldberg
2. Writing Down the Bones-Natalie Goldberg
3. On Writing- Stephen King
4. Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott
5. The Artists Way- Julia Cameron
I've been struggling through a crisis of identity: and by that, I mean of passion. Outside of writing, everything else is a revolving door of concentration and intensity. Many things have stepped into the light of being that one thing, as I tend to hone in on on one identifying hobby or fervor at a time.
For the past 4 years, my biggest passion (and self-presenting image) has been hiking. Constant hiking. Nature photography, writing about hiking, reading trip reports, planning hikes. It says a lot that nearly every gift I've received over the past few years has to do with hiking. It's certainly the main way I relate to my extended family; suddenly the Uncle who never spoke to me carries on long trail talks with me over holiday meals, and that's great.
The truth is, my dedication to hiking has been slipping through the sands of time for awhile now. It used to be something I needed with a quality of desperation. It was essential to my mental health in so many ways. Through circumstance and time, along with a quieting of suffering, I've become used to life without it. Though I crave the trails after a month without, it doesn't have the same lure it used to.
Life is a process of falling in and out of love with nouns: people, places, things. So often that which we were desperate for fails to fulfill us, and instead turns to mulch. It's all a Zen experiment in impermanence, I'm sure...a process of detachment from the false narratives that we are any of these: our hobbies, jobs, let alone our feelings. We know these change unequivocally.
To be embodied is to be clear on the fact that we are rivers unto the earth, constantly moving and changing. Inscribing the landscape around us as we carve a place for ourselves in time and space, hoping our fossilized imprints cast a permanence beyond anything else we know.
It's time to find something new to dump my abundance of love into. Something to do, then write about. A passion or project that awakens and invigorates me the way that hiking used to.
"I write out of total incomprehension that even love isn't enough and that finally writing might be all I have and that isn't enough. I can never get it all down, and besides, there are times when I have to step away from the table, notebook, and turn to face my own life. Then there are times when it's only coming to the notebook that I truly do face my own life." -Natalie Goldberg