I just finished a gem of a book: Writing Down the Bones; Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. Maybe its title sounds a bit hokey to you? (It did to me too.) No matter. I needed a little hand-holding and bought the book. And devoured it.
Here's the deal. I am, finally, after lazing around in a litany of life's best excuses, rolling up my sleeves and writing my second book. It feels amazing. Just yesterday, I had this moment when I wrote something, a tiny paragraph, a small cluster of clumsy words, and I said aloud in the empty room, I think I am in love with this story. Now, for a self-critical bozo like me, this was a good moment. And it passed, of course.
(I was reminded, yesterday, of writing the final chapter of Life After Yes. Those pages? They came from somewhere deep, writing themselves, tumbling out of me. I was crying when I finished. It was one of the most profound things I have ever experienced.)
So. I am excited. To be writing, really writing, again. But I am also scared. Not scared that my writing won't be any good, or that I won't sell my manuscript (I am scared of these things too, of course), but scared of losing control. Because for me (for all of us?) writing, good and true writing, is about losing control.
What if someone is afraid of losing control?
Natalie Goldberg, the author, answers this question in the book's afterward. Her answer shook me.
To be alive, we have to deal with the loss of control. Falling in love is a loss of control. When we die or someone we love dies, it's a tremendous loss of control. And what's nice about writing practice is it's a measured way to dip yourself into that huge vast emptiness, that loss of control, and then pull yourself out so you can feel safe again. You put down your pen for a while and go take a walk. Then you dip yourself in. Sort of in degrees.
Yes. Life entails a loss of control. We try so hard to orchestrate and organize, to predict and plan, but really so much is out of our hands. And so we must deal with this feeling. This feeling of flux and flow. This feeling of careening. But it's not just this. Not just a sober reality we must come to terms with. No.
Losing control (and, with it, self) can be glorious. Just yesterday, Sister C and I had this wonderful conversation about passion and life. We concluded that, at bottom, we are all searching for that thing. That thing that takes us away. That makes us forget ourselves. That thing? That is living.
And so. On this good Tuesday morning, I sit here. Scared and aware. Scared that I will face the blank screen once more later this morning, the screen that will suck me in. And away. Aware that it is just this, this golden loss of control, that makes writing - and living - so meaningful.
May we all find that something, little or big, professional or personal, that makes us lose control. Let's all dip in.
- Do you agree that being alive entails dealing with inevitable loss of control?
- When have you felt least in control?
- Have you experienced the joy of losing yourself in something?
- Are you afraid of losing control? Why or why not?
- Do you think it is possible to lose control in a controlled way?
- Do you also enjoy books on writing?