Henrietta, the Writer

Writing a book is not about writing at all

I always wired myself that writing is about sitting down and practice, like you practice playing the piano. I made up a story that writing is a skill some people are born with, others are deprived of and if you, like in my case, fall into the latter, you just have to learn how to sweat through your inadequacy and push by push, drop by drop, you will eventually learn some skills that might, only might, qualify you as a writer. I still laugh at my own foolishness. Well, partly because you never really qualify as a writer as it is a never ending walk through rock terrain and gentle fields of perseverance, acceptance and constant failure and partly because well, no one is really ever born as a writer. Which in a way assures me that wiring for habits of writing was not that bad an instinct in the first place.

So I was saying, I was wiring for habits of discipline, setting up writing dates of God forgive, dare to think about a writing group or approach publishers who terrify me just by the look. I was wiring for habits of perseverance, hard work, sweating, failing constantly and making drastic changes. Habits like these are comforting, even soul stroking in moments of self-doubt and confusion as they pacify me and just because I am doing it, I must be getting somewhere, right?

Up until now. Because now that I am actually nearing the finish line of completing my book, I realize that writing a book has actually little to do with writing. Really. Of course you do need to create the structure, the place, the time schedule and work on that darn hard discipline to stare at the empty screen, fearing that absolutely nothing will come out of you for at least 34 hours. You do need a plot, characters and a decent way to present it to the world. Yet, the story falls flat when you are disconnected from the real world where you created it.

And that real world is Your Life.

The place where you focus on the details of your fears that has been residing inside of you for decades. The chirping of the birds on your window sill as they are trying to tell you something about your marriage or your choices. As I wrote, I developed a childlike vision for all things surrounding me, for the tiniest detail until it started to suffocate and imprison me. I caught myself shopping like a writer describing the glorious details of sunshine and the June clouds to the shop assistant who was about to reach for the alarm button under her counter.

And all the while I was constructing, editing, writing and revising, I forgot the fundamental truth- that writing a book has little to do with writing. It is a lot more about your why-s, how-s and why not-s. it is about digging consciously for more, going beyond the walls of your consciousness and daring that solemn look. In that gentle rubber you start picking up pieces of yourself once you knew so deeply, dust it off or throw away like a chipped mosaic piece in search of another. You excavate energies that got stuck. You revive personalities once upon a time defined you and now feel like strangers in your own body.

And as you do, along with the writing you become the person you always wanted to be. You love with your words and you hug that little girl who is scared of showing her work to a major publisher. You look at the woman in you, that courageous, wild woman who would choose “being live” over “being safe” any time from now on.

Like an editor would rip our work into shreds, we undergo a systematic or at times not so systematic shredding of our own life.  We know shredding is good, we are just terrified of doing it because we fear that what we gain will never mount to what we are losing. Then we get down on our knees, stare at the blank pages of motherhood, wifehood, sisterhood and martyrdom until the sweat scorches our very being and start feeling alive again!

Places of fear, higher bars, more exposure, free and wild wonderings in field of the unknown are foundational for our life. At best we learn how to navigate through this transformation, taking the heaps and loops, zigzags and labyrinths.  At worst, we diminish. Not as writers, but as people and sit in the mucky mossy corners of our life we never dared taking, watching like a bystander waiting for it to come to its end. Effusive at it, writing a book is like writing our own life. It is about structure, construction, imagination, planning and building up characters.

We all have the ability to write it.



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