I was reading Steve Almond’s essay in The New York Times about why writing workshops are so successful. Instead of going to talk therapy – where people talk their stories – they are going to writing classes where they write their stories. Because, as Pico Iyer said, “Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
I write to reach my readers, most of whom are strangers. And I also write to get to know myself. I can look in the mirror to see my face but I look at the words I’ve written down and I see my soul. That is the deepest of visions. That is why writing is so profound.
Some might argue that it’s silly, all this scribbling. What is the point, exactly, of getting to know the deepest part of ourselves? Because if we want to live our best lives, then we have to understand who we really are so that we can become our best selves. And the only way to do that is to get down and dirty. To reveal as much as we can about ourselves so we know what makes us laugh, cry, smile and weep, what makes us want to throw a perfectly good ceramic dish against the wall in anger or fall down to our knees and cry out in pain. I’m thinking of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones who wrote that writing is what breaks your heart open “so deeply to a tenderness and softness toward myself and from that, a glowing compassion for all that is around me.”
Here’s an exercise: get a pen and paper (you should still have those things lying around somewhere) and then set a timer and give yourself five minutes to write down everything you love about your life right at this moment, right now. Here’s what I started to write: I am in love with the birds in the trees, singing as if they don’t know what death is…or they do know what death is and that makes them sing even louder and the leaves of the eucalyptus trees swaying in the breeze, the blue blue sky, the thin white clouds, the avocado I plan to eat for lunch and my third cup of coffee, running with my husband in the early dawn as the sun came up over the hills…
It is so good and powerful to appreciate the everyday moments of life. Then we are able to appreciate our lives and who we are right now. I can write out my heart knowing that life is short and the only way I can enlarge it and stretch out time is to write it all down, to embrace all that I have right here, right now, and all that I am.
Open invitation: Send your scribbles! I’ll be posting them next Friday.