Our Women’s Writing Circle prompt for November comes from Zen in the Art of Archery, a book by German philosopher Eugen Herrigel, who after living in Japan and studying Japanese archery, is credited with introducing Zen to the Western world in the late 1940s. He writes: “If you don’t write, life is just one damn thing after another.” This struck me as a good prompt, not to mention a reminder to keep writing. How does writing lead me to understand something, whether great or small in my life, simply by putting it down on paper? To say that writing is cheaper than therapy is an oft quoted cliche but one that is true, as well as a teaching tool. You see if I don’t write, life does become just one damn thing after another.
Take the past several months where I learned that making the days enjoyable meant reaching out to others, talking to strangers, learn something new. As I traveled solo up and down the tri-state area where I live, I forced myself to walk miles, past historic homes of clapboard and brick, along banks of green, gray rivers glistening in the sunlight, lugging a small suitcase up the winding wooden stairs of bed and breakfasts, where in one case, I felt I had stepped into a scene out of Stephen King’s The Shining. The house was literally wall-to-wall dolls, ceramic and cloth faces frozen in smiles, eyes glittering, staring at nothing. They were arranged in china cabinets, on fireplace mantels and hearths, even on bathroom shelves above the toilet. Write about this, I told myself.
It reminded me of the time when we cleaned out my grandparents’ house in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Dolls nestled in baby carriages wearing faded yellowing nightcaps and gowns spoke of childhoods morphed into old age. The memory returns of my mother and her life.
At night on my trips, I wandered into restaurants, usually seeking out a comfortable looking bar where people talked to one another and shared anecdotes about their lives. “Here, look at this,” a woman said to me one night at a bar in Frederick, Maryland, holding out her cell phone. “This is my granddaughter. She was born yesterday. The first girl in two generations!” It made me remember my father’s joy at having a daughter.
Or the night I drifted aimlessly down streets and into a tavern in Annapolis, Maryland with seashells and maritime decor on wood-paneled walls. A man young enough to be my son asked me what it was like to be a writer. “I’m a painter,” he said … “when I get the time and I’m not working in the tech industry, I want to live a creative life like you.” He told me he worked remotely, saw few if any people during the day. So, there we were, two strangers, making a connection on a breezy summer night in a world where loneliness and isolation are epidemics. Write about this.
So, as I write, I think about what I want to say tonight when I read from my new book at the local public library. What do I want to say about being a writer, about the privilege of being able to connect through the written word? Maybe it’s that you have to keep experiencing new things, meeting new people, learning something new each day, and booking a solo stay at a bed and breakfast out of a horror movie. We live in a world where too often people are glued to their screens, they’re not getting outside, taking a walk, just living, just observing, just listening to someone else. See that’s the joy of being a writer. All of that is part of your job description. And in the end, you’re making sense out of “one damn thing after another.”
8 thoughts on “If You Don’t Write, Life Is Just One Thing After Another”
This reminds me of the adage that to write, you have to first live. You’re doing that by exploring new areas and observing your thoughts through your experiences. What an inspiring post. Thanks for the warm vibes!
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Thanks, Stuart, for your comment and stopping here “along the writer’s way.” Most appreciated to know the post resonated…and, yes, living life is the writing life too.
Your lead-in line certainly resonates with me, now into the thick of making sense of my adult life in a second memoir.
Kudos for seeking new experiences, reaching out–even finding a young man who envies the life you lead.
Good luck with tying it all together and finding those ‘themes’ in your life. I look forward to reading your new memoir, Marian, and I’m here if you need another edit. As for the young man … I think he’s sort of emblematic of millennials looking to retire early, if they can.
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Live to write; write to live. It is true that living is more than one damn thing after another. We must get out, listen, observe, experience. Writing helps to make sense of it all. As you said, that is the joy of writing. And living.
The benefits of writing are many. Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your experience of how writing and living are intertwined to the fullest to make sense of things.
Susan, I started a draft post today and titled it “Unable to Write.” Since my surgery in 2019, which was over eight hours long, I have been able to focus on many things and find clarity in my thinking. Unfortunately, this happens to patients over 65 when a long surgery requires lengthy anesthesia. This has left me feeling no longer a writer. I want to write but the words just don’t come. However, your post has given me possible ways to encourage those words to work their way to my fingers to type them out on my laptop. How can hug you and say thanks? We’re too far apart. So imagine I’m hugging you and know you’ve strikes a small flame under me!
Thank you so much, Sherrey for your kind words. A writer writes and you are a writer just writing and sharing this here. A few sentences a day is good enough. Wish we were closer too to give each other a sisterly hug … two kindred spirits bound together by our words and shared journey.
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