Following Covid, a lot of us felt as if we were languishing. Finding it hard to pick up the pieces. A man I barely know confessed as much to me the other day. “I don’t know where to go from here,” he said. He hoped to restart his business, but time would tell. That’s probably why I write. To figure things out. Digging deep becomes more rewarding the older I get. Understanding yourself is the best compass to know where to go from here.
As we write, we come back to ourselves. Writers and readers revel in shared experiences … the neighborhoods we grew up in, the people who became our friends, the family-held secrets carried from one generation to the next … the trauma.
The last is tricky for writers. Excitement coupled with fear marks the journey as we strip away the façade and the secrecy, relive the unfairness of it all. Stripping away is good for the soul. Of course, as Virginia Woolf said, a woman needs to have a room of her own. It helps to have financial independence when you write. But it’s not necessary.
This past year as I wrote about events, places and people, the exercise became even a greater touchstone to creativity, self-discovery and empowerment than before. After all, writing is a psychological discovery on a secular and spiritual level. It’s a way to connect, yes, even on social media there’s a human heart beating.
When I wrote Again in a Heartbeat, I excavated the trauma of loss and widowhood at a fairly young age. Writing about cancer and its toll on marriage may not seem appetizing. It helped to take a deep breath, quit censoring myself, feel confident that I offered something of value in my relationships and my words. What whetted my appetite as much as anything was the discovery along the way … my desires and dreams, hopes and false expectations emerged with the story. As Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.”
Recently, a friend told me she’s not sure what to write anymore. She wants to write, but doesn’t … the energy evaporated. We began talking about her day. So much of it interested me. Surely, it interested her, too. Her story, I knew, would strike a chord with others. She didn’t have to write a book, just a few paragraphs here and there. I told her I was writing because it gave my day meaning, even on those days where I feel I am languishing. So, in a sense, I’m writing to pick up the pieces.