Writing Over Hills and Valleys

About twenty-five years ago I had the privilege of attending a two-day management training seminar conducted by Helen Reynolds, a noted author and speaker of the time who specialized in helping women develop their leadership skills. This lively grandmother refused to carry anything but a toothbrush and wallet aboard a plane, and she spent the first day clad in her elegant raincoat, asking questions and lecturing off-the-cuff while she waited for the arrival of her lost suitcase and her brain-in-a-box: a steamer trunk full of immaculately organized overhead slides. On day two, she seemingly pulled overheads forth at random as the conversation continued. Somehow this casual approach worked to inspire, instruct, and generate four-star evaluations. Aside from my astonishment at the success of her apparent lack of organization, I remember only one thing — a story she told.

“All I know about life, is that at times it is compact and tidy,” she said, holding an imaginary globe just a little bigger than a softball. “When it’s like that, everything goes according to plan, neat and tidy and right on schedule. I feel in control and on top of things, like I could do anything. When it’s like that,” she continued, “I know only one thing. Sooner or later it will go Poof!” Her hands flew apart.

“When that happens, life is big and scattered and chaotic, and I have no idea how I’ll get through the days.” She holds an imaginary beach ball as big as a small moon.

“But when life is like that, I know only one thing. Sooner or later, things will settle down, and fall back in order,” her hands slowly compress, “and before long, it will be tidy and orderly again.” Her hands have returned to softball size.

I understood the truth of those words as she spoke them. More than a quarter of a century has passed since then, and today they seem even more true than when I heard them. Yen and Yang, life cycles, hills and valleys, call it what you will. You know what I mean. But wouldn’t life be boring if the road were flat!

This principle seems to apply to all areas of life, writing no less than others. On unpredictable occasions, my writing is lucid and flowing, seeming to come from fountains of wisdom far beyond anything I could summon forth on purpose. More often it is work. I start a story or a blog post, get it half written and realize it isn’t going where I want to go. I may start half a dozen times. Then I cut and paste and snip, and only with great effort do I arrive at something that says what I intend.

Sure, I could just sit here and wait for my muse Sarabelle to come drifting by, but I’ve found that she’s more likely to visit when she knows I’m trying. The hard times are the workouts my fingers need to keep them limber for the times she does visit.

Besides, anyone who goes to the gym regularly knows that feeling of satisfaction that comes from a good workout. It isn’t easy to start, to form the habit, but once it’s formed, the work feels good, It generates a sense of satisfaction and well-being. Writing is no different.

So even if you struggle, even if it seems as if you’ll never get the words down just the way you’d like, keep on writing. If you’re stuck on one story, write another. And another. At the very least, you’ll leave behind lots of drafts, and as I’ve said so often,

Any lifestory you write
is better than writing nothing.

Write now: about times when you felt the most blocked in your writing. What did you do to free up your fingers? How do you cope during these times/ Then write about a time when you felt words flowing forth as if by magic. Or imagine such a scene and write about it. How does it feel?

1 comment :

Tara said...

She sounds like a very wise woman. Great story!