Early in July, I became the owner of a home that will give our family the space we’ve long needed. I also became a de facto general contractor. My fix-it list is rapidly growing; my word count is not. How easily non-writing work can fill the time we set aside precisely for the page — especially when such busyness sometimes gives us more sense of accomplishment on some days than the few paragraphs we may add to a work in progress …
I don’t want to write about this, she said.
For the woman who spoke these too familiar words to me, this was illness. Insidious, consuming, chronic. I nodded because it was also my story, just with different symptoms. We spoke in the shorthand we had each become practiced at employing around our narratives, framing conditions that did not, in spite of our best efforts, abate. I don’t know how to write about this, I thought. And I wondered if that was what, deep down, she had meant.
During a workshop at Vortext led by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, we used the tarot to explore questions in our individual writing projects. The cards are simply a tool to remind us of what we already know, she said.
This has been my own approach to working with the tarot. In the most literal sense, it has helped me recall memories I’d suppressed for years as I’ve continued my dive into not only what I hid but why I hid it.
During some downtime at Vortext, the writing salon I attended earlier this month, I jotted into a notepad, trying to put a tail on the thoughts I’d started to gather on the ferry ride to the retreat grounds that morning. To pin down the questions I wanted my book to ask and to illustrate why they mattered by sketching out its opening scene.
I had resisted writing those words. As I let the questions take shape, however, I realized that my resistance needed its own place on the page. That the struggle to frame the questions was an essential part of the story too.
I’m trying to travel light next week for Vortext, a lovely writer’s salon hosted by Hedgebrook and the Whidbey Institute on an island just outside Seattle. I drew the Hanged Man this week as I started packing in earnest, an apt reminder to approach the task with — wait for it — non-attachment. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something I need!
On a deeper level, the card is an invitation to enter this writing retreat without placing too much pressure on that time, rare as such a getaway is for me. Not that there isn’t opportunity in the everyday to do some kind of writing — I’m passionate about supporting other writers in cultivating windows, large and small, for their practice — but three days devoted solely to that work is something to be relished.
I believe in easing resistance in our work by nurturing how we practice creativity. And I believe in the magic of meaningful mentorship — guidance that sustains our connection to creative flow and allows our work in progress to unfold in an organic way. How, though, does this relate to the name I chose for my business? Here’s the story of Draft: the practice and the coaching philosophy.
This week, to ground the roiling of my writing thoughts, I drew a tarot card to direct my focus. Of course, the image that came forward was the Nine of Swords: the card of midnight worries and the unsettled mind.
There are moments when the cards mirror my creative state so uncannily that my first response is, “Well, tell me something I don't know!” But in this case, after a second look, I remembered that this Nine is also the card of dreams.
My dreams have gotten loud as I’ve sifted through boxes of memory-triggering artifacts in recent weeks. I haven’t felt clear on how to write about the memories — where in the narrator’s awareness and understanding of her story does she speak from? I’ve asked. I suspect my dreams have been trying to show me potential answers to this question.
This month has been about looking back. Not the sort of reflection that happens on the page, but the kind that has to do with checking in and taking stock.
The process of gathering specific memories and corroborating them with family and friends for my book project has been going on since February, and now that I have quite the growing information cache, I’ve needed to step back and consider it all at once. I don’t want to lose sight of what my intentions were when I started this exploration, and at the same time, I don’t want to miss opportunities to let the material point me in directions I could not have known about at the outset.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the buried memories my memoir has been inviting me to reclaim — stories I was told about who I was, or should be, in childhood and adolescence that I didn’t know how to integrate or reconcile into a cohesive sense of self. I’m emerging now from three weeks in subterranean search mode with much more of the picture. But reentry has been jarring.
One reason is that I’m holding so much new information. Writer’s block isn't always about a lack of words or ideas — sometimes it’s having too many.
At exactly 4 p.m., a text from our school district arrives, announcing the fourth snow day in a week, fifth if you count the day they sent the kids home early on account of an anticipated winter storm.
I am already resigned to the fact that O. will be home tomorrow, given the district’s track record — large flakes have been falling heavily all afternoon with no sign of a break. But the text reminds me just how far from normal this weather is for the Pacific Northwest — and how much of a transplant to this region I still am.