"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Thursday, June 10, 2010


In November 2009 I started a blog. I don't remember exactly why; maybe I stumbled upon someone else's blog that day and was inspired (there are great blogs out there!), or maybe I thought about how I've always wanted to publish my work somewhere, and how I really miss the interaction between me, the writer, and other people who read what I've written. In any case, I scooped up some of my work from not-so-recently, transposed it onto a free blog site and entitled it "Careful, Or You'll End Up In My Novel" because I'd seen that on a T-shirt and thought it was a great quote (not because I truly ever expect to write a novel). I had not written anything new for what seemed like a long, long time. I wanted to, but I felt that I had lost my creativity when I went on medication designed to be a mood stabilizer. Nor am I the first person who's felt that madness feeds art and stability thwarts it. In the back of my mind, maybe, I hoped that seeing some of this good old stuff in print would kick-start my creativity.

In a time of great sickness, both physical and mental, ten or twelve years ago, I dragged out all of my old journals and floating bits of thoughts on paper and even old college compositions, and I mixed and stirred and served up what could maybe be -- no, what will be (someday) a pretty decent memoir. I timidly showed it to a small handful of readers but mostly kept it secreted away. Parts of it, especially, say, when I was in my 20s, are not pretty. But that's as far as it got. So it sits. Certainly not ready for Prime Time, but still, there's some flesh on those bones. I only got so far, though, and things converged; I began to get well; I moved; managing an old house that's also a rental property took up a great deal of my time and energy; and though I never forgot the Writer me, I misplaced her. Missed her. And didn't know where to find her.  Wasn't even sure where to look.

Two things I know about writing: one, I write because I can't not write; two, writing is work. There are times when the words in my head fly faster than the fingers on my keyboard can type; there are many other times when I sit and stare at a sentence and think "you can do better," although "better" might be tweaked and deleted and restored and tweaked again dozens of times, over a prolonged period, before I consider it a worthy sentence at all. Maybe, I thought, if I just sit down from, oh, 10 to 1 five days a week and just...well, just write stuff I'll get back into the swing of things? Three hours, just. But that didn't happen.

Then in February of 2010 I came across a website called "She Writes." I think maybe a link popped up somewhere, maybe on my Facebook template...cookies can do such amazing things, and I did list "writing" as a favorite activity/interest on my Facebook profile. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that I navigated to the website, looked it over, thought it looked good and signed on. I wasn't really too sure at the moment what I might get out of this group, or even if it was a serious group or just a fluffy albeit well-intentioned fly-by-night.

SW (She Writes) is a writing buffet: there appeared to be a slot for just about everything writing-related: a blog registry, sub-groups you could join (poets, "mom" writers, writers from the Midwest, et al), published authors and those "counting down," interviews, articles, feedback, classes. So, I think, where to? What direction should I go in to get the most out of joining SW...where do I fit in? Is this anything I should take seriously?

Turns out, SW is a feast. Just shy of one year old, at last count it boasted 8,843 members. (Talk about "girl power!!") I registered my blog and then shared it on my Facebook profile, hoping my friends and relatives would follow it and comment. Major point here: remember, this was the older pieces. Nothing terribly personal or controversial. But interesting, I hoped. And then, two things happened.

One, I "Friended" (on Facebook and SW) another writer who had a blog. When I read her blog I was envious. She held nothing back. Even though she had family who might read what she had written (a major stumbling block for me! how do people do it!), she boldly (and this is her expression, not mine) "wrote without a condom." I realized that it was time for me to do the same. Past time, in fact. Then, there came a challenge from SW: make Friday your writing day. If you don't write anything else during the week, at least write something on Friday. Deborah Siegel, the originator of this challenge, promised a weekly "prompt" (in my English 101 class in college, this would be akin to an "assignment"). I felt better about starting to write again knowing there was something specific to write about. I wasn't on my own.

So I started another blog for new work. I called it "Help, My Compass Broke" because I had, in fact, just found that a necklace of mine, with a little blue compass hanging from it, had broken. The needle wasn't working, and that disturbed me, because I loved to wear that necklace and it couldn't be repaired or replaced. I felt all at a loss. During my mourning of the necklace it occurred to me that this would actually be a pretty accurate metaphor of my life. And a good blog title.

I felt like a columnist for a newspaper or magazine -- that I'd been given an assignment and a deadline -- and this was just what the doctor ordered. I didn't always follow SWs' prompts, nor did I always write on a Friday. But I started to write. New stuff. Again. And I promised myself that I would not hold back entirely...that I would, in fact, do my best to write truthfully and uncensored. I've found that I'm still a little close-mouthed, but getting somewhere, I think.

This past Friday's SW prompt was to "write about a She Writes moment," and defines it as such:

She Writes Moment (noun) = a) an interaction facilitated by your involvement on this site that has helped, moved, changed, or otherwise affected you, b) a realization you’ve had as a result of being part of this growing community, or c) a random act of kindness, reciprocity, serendipity, surprise, or generosity you’ve experienced here.

So here is what I have learned, or re-learned, from She Writes:

1) I don't always have a clear outline of what I'm going to write about before I start writing. I tend to muse and meander. It's my style, and it may not be appealing to everyone. But as long as no one orders up a slice of beginning/middle/end, it is okay that it's my style to meander. Good points, major insights and great poetic prose can stem from musing.

2) There are much better writers than I. They dazzle me. Then there are folks who in my quiet opinion don't write as well as I do. So what?

3) I like to know the end of a piece before I can start writing one.  I am not sure why.  But I often envision a closing sentence or two of an essay long before I construct the essay.  In all the many Composition classes I have been in, through all the many pieces I've written on my own, I cannot believe I never realized this or acknowledged it.  

I do have a habit of rambling (see #1 above) and I'll never forget one professor who handed me back an assignment on which he'd written, "Just cross off the last two or three paragraphs of your papers before you hand them in, okay?"  

So maybe subconsciously I figure I'm already ahead of the game, all ready to spare the reader and myself too by knowing the ending?  Maybe.  All I can say is, I get the endings first.  They hang around, waiting for the blood, sweat and tears to start.

4) I do a pretty good job of writing in a manner that will be interesting to a reader, even if they don't know who I am.

5) I don't have to get up and do stuff for other people, or the cats, or even answer the phone while I am writing. I can say "screw that" and it is OKAY. I can take all the time I need. It is MY time. It is time that is sacred to me, to my soul, however you would describe a soul. Even when I sit in front of the computer staring at the keyboard, I am writing. Even when I grow quiet during a conversation or maybe there is a lull while I'm watching TV so that I can't remember what just happened on the show, I am writing. I can pull a notebook out of my purse any time I want or need to and scribble stuff in it. That's not weird or impolite. That is just me -- writing.

So I've surprised myself.

I still haven't been able to look at some of the deeper pieces I've written, and that is a necessity. I know it will be disorienting. That's the next step, however. Putting it all together. A SW Friend in the Memoir group makes a good case when she says "I wouldn't put myself through hell just to write a memoir." And there were indeed some hellish times, balanced by times nothing short of idyllic. We'll see, I guess. I can say with honesty, writing is therapy.  (Reading what you've written is often shock therapy.)

So...a She Writes moment.  An "interaction that has helped, moved, changed, or otherwise affected" me, a "realization....as a result of being part of this growing community," a "random act of kindness, reciprocity, serendipity, surprise, or generosity"...  Oh, all that, She Writes.  All that, and more.  I am a writer.  Thank you.


  1. hi laurie-- where are the posts you mentioned to me? xj

  2. got your e-mail and would love to see you post some of your CNF/personal essays on this blog as well. A bit of a rough weekend and will get moving again tomorrow, I hope. xj