A Writer Writes

Dear curious,

I thought for a long time that I had no claim to being a writer. I would read Elizabeth Gilbert describing how she had always had a passion for writing, had always known this to be her vocation. I would read over and over again about how real writers ‘had to write’ from the cradle or thereabouts. For me, this was not the case, and yet I could not say categorically that I didn’t need to write either.

I wrote at school, of course. And I wrote diaries off and on from my tweenage years onwards, but desisted the practice because I knew they would be found and read. It simply didn’t feel safe to put down my thoughts, feelings, and experiences down on paper in my early teens. However, when I was eighteen, I began writing in order to think, to reflect, to work things out, most of all to bring order to my hyper stimulated and unruly mind.

I didn’t keep the pages I wrote. I threw them away. I remember doing the writing itself, from speed bomb induced night scribbling, to moonish fantasising, to letters that would never be posted. I still have this tendency to write, purge, and destroy.

When I left university and travelled to Asia, the concept of ‘being a writer’ began to suggest itself. However, I didn’t know where to begin trying to publish anything. I hadn’t even heard of blogs at that point. My priorities at the time were to experience foreign cultures, to eat and drink every substance available, to find someone hot to fall in love with, and to do the minimum in my teaching job that I was able to without being fired.

I came back to Europe, met my husband, and moved to Portugal. I started an MSc, bought a house, and got knocked up. This kept me occupied, as did having two more children. I certainly had to write a great deal for my MSc, where I adopted narrative inquiry as a research methodology. The most useful takeaway from my course was that I established a habit of extensive writing.

But I didn’t feel like academia was for me, so there was a gap where the writing I was directed to do had been. I started blogging about parenting. I chose writing about motherhood because that was the place where I felt most confused, and struggled to work out my thoughts and feelings. It was a reflective practice of the whys and hows of mothering, and it led me into a lot of reading about how minds and bodies work. I began to appreciate the innocence and psychological freshness that we all start with, and how that begins to be lost.

At some point, I had to admit that cataloguing parenting books was not the most impactful action I could take in my attempts to be a good parent. Being the mother I wanted to be wasn’t about choosing attachment parenting or baby led weaning or knowing the research on screen time. What most influenced my parenting for the better was learning where my experience of life was coming from. I needed to understand why the world appeared to me the way it did from one moment to the next. This involved cultivating the stubborn willingness to look inside rather than outside in order to resolve preoccupations.

Reflection on life experience snow-balled into full blown spiritual seeking. In much the same way that my life revolved around questions about mothering in the past, now I found myself asking questions about what gave life meaning, what was important, what was the nature of reality, what existed and what didn’t. I had begun searching to establish a broader space in which to hold daily minutiae and bigger pictures, with a degree of conscious awareness, with grace even.

I am a writer because writing is a game that I play with the light and shadows inside me. My inner landscape can be mountainous, perilous, with labyrinthine cities curled into crevices at bizarre angles. There are creatures, characters, and thickening plots. There are broad grasslands, shifting skies, and indigo oceans. There is endless potential for both invention and discovery.

Writing reminds me that I am my world’s curator, historian, and explorer. I feel most myself when I am writing, because my mind is open, free, and happy. Rattling the keyboard provides a means to look after my personal craziness in a sane way, without falling into addictive cycles and self-destruction (as much).

I am a writer because the act of writing creates an alchemy between the ‘real world’ and my imagination, emotions, thoughts, sensations. It is the place where insights are voiced. Being too busy, or too often-interrupted, or too tired to perform this magic leaves me walking a tense tight rope over a pit of unexploded sparks. It doesn’t take much for the sparks to detonate in unfortunate directions.

So, I’m a writer. I’m not a professional. It’s not my job. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘I am destined to be a writer’. Nevertheless. I am a writer, simply because a writer writes.

What about you, curious? Do you write? What and why do you write?

Love and scribbles,

Alexis xxx

Thanks to  hannah grace on Unsplash for the featured image.

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