Every year or so, I worry that I will never write again. These stretches of writer’s block convince me that I’m not any good; that my rhyming and meter is stale; and that I will never finish any of the novels in my head. I worry that to be a “real” writer (whatever that means) I must be writing all the time. Real writers have something good to say. Real writers never leave half-finished drafts lying around. Real writers are more disciplined.
And with everything in flux and boxes the past few months, the worry is stronger than ever. Real life has pressed in close, and there’s not been much time for poems and stories. I’ve not walked through Narnia in a great long while. I’ve
spent more time critiquing literature than exploring it. Real life presses in hard.
One thing I’ve learned is that at times like this, I need to clear my head. Old receipts and doctor’s appointments crowd out my favorite stories. Oil changes and job prospects share a room with bible verses I’ve saved away. Unendorsed checks and monthly payments seem to shrink my brain day by day. This is when you know it’s time to rest.
Today, kayaking on Watts Bar Lake, I fell into a story. The lake around me turned into enduring ripples of words. A sunset exploded into a burst of punctuation and the paddle of my kayak became a curving f. A sudden chasm of type print opened up underneath me and stories pulled their threads through my head. It was good to be back, my friends: good to be alive again.
Long-dead stories that I’ve not thought of in years mixed like aged wine with new, explosive strawberry stories, unproven and untested but delightfully delicious. Words exploded on the roof of my mouth as I drank the sunbeams and watched the fairies dancing in the air between. The sun set with melancholy beauty, shaded pink in a haze of clouds. The frogs orchestrated and darkness collected along the banks in dense pools. I remembered, all in a rush, the magic we step over every day. All the good writing I’d soaked up for the past two years washed over me like a moveable feast, and I saw the world around me with new eyes.
But something was different this time. You see, all this I wrote without a single word. Always before, I’d taken new bursts of inspiration and poured them into a story or a poem. But other than this blog post, there isn’t a magnum opus I’m pouring into. No, I’m going back to more bills and appointments and regular life.
Still, no matter if I put words on a page at all, I’m always writing one story. “Life is a story” is a cliché, but it’s no cliché to write with wide-open eyes the beauty of life. When I moved from Minneapolis I threw my words and paragraphs into boxes, and drove south with the windows down and my head hanging out. My wife fills our living room with her own delightfully run-on sentences scattered amongst her craft projects and her gifts that she is making for the people she loves. When I sit with my friend drinking coffee late into the night, stories of climbing mountains abound. Who needs pen and words when you have road trips, scattered craft projects, and late-night coffee? Life is a story, and we stumble through it with our eyes only half-open.
Like I need the jolt of strong coffee in the morning, I need time to empty my head and freshen my eyes. Walks through the woods are good for the soul, but they’re better for 8AM two weeks later when there’s a meeting and you’re late to work and you got burnt in the shower because that shower head never works. This is the story I live. When I walk with eyes open, I see the dark and the light blending together in every piece. I cling to the light when there’s nothing but dark, and I ache for home when the light almost crowds out the dark. I am living a story, and it’s a wild and beautiful adventure.
My job in the last several days has been to walk a strange three-legged race. With my wife, I am beginning to learn what it feels like to make two stories one, and stagger along as we share deep rollicking laughs and push ahead in our own, brand-new story. What a good giver of gifts God is to give such a story to live! It’s more than I can take in, even wide-eyed with both hands open. I’m overwhelmed at the beauty and the joy of it all, and the only thing left to do is to squeeze my eyes shut and remember it all.
I am written, and that is more wonderful of a thing than I had ever known before.