The State of Not Writing

Goll Gappay turned two while I was absent from its pages. Many times, I opened this page and thought, I've nothing much to say right now. Instead, I read and felt sorry for not writing, for not having inspiration enough to write even a single line. I complained to friends, I can't write anymore. The response was always a familiar roll of the eyes, here she goes again, and a frustrated, "Yes you can. Did you even try?" They are all right, of course. And yet, I drove through the much needed Northern California rain, thought about the rise and fall of life, ruminated on journeys and their transience, and all the while I sensed a poem hovering under the realm of my consciousness. I had several dreams about my father, about seeing him after 12 years, about holding on to things that cannot be named, and letting go of those that can. I experienced restlessness over not producing anything, not even ideas, not even a phrase that could be written, let alone celebrated. 

There are so many reasons for not writing, you see. I am busy at work. My toddler is, well, a toddler. I was briefly traveling. It's the holidays. I have to buy Christmas gifts. Potty training is a looming monster. I am tired. I am not truly "present." And yet, there is only one reason to write that overshadows all of these arguments with the tenacity of its truth -- "because I must."

So, here I am again. No poem in sight, but an image from Joan Didion's Play it as it lays whirlpooling in my thoughts, "The sun glazing over the Pacific..." Nothing extraordinary about this particular image when you look at how exceptional Didion's work is. "The sun glazing over the Pacific." And yet there is poetry in it, the loneliness, the longing...or is that me trying to find all of this, identify, memorize, craft it all -- but how?

Does a poet relearn the rules of the game every time she emerges from self-imposed hiding? Take a pen. Open notebook. Start doodling. Write anything. Write, dammit, write for god's sake write, just write. It is so daunting, this wait, this gloom, the mounting anxiety in this time of silence and loneliness where there is neither comfort nor words. Sure, writers understand each other's woes when one complains, "I can't do it anymore. It doesn't give me any pleasure. It is torture." In fact, this is the exact conversation a talented writer-friend had with me a week or so ago. To which my immediate response is, yes, of course, it is torture, but for most of us there is no alternative. We must write. There is not even a "yes, but." We must simply do it. It's a double-edged sword -- equal parts injury and relief.

And so I am here, to get an infusion of relief. To relearn this art that gives me so much joy and just as much misery, but let's face it, mostly joy. "The sun glazing over the Pacific," not the sun's warmth, not the hot sun, not the yellow sun, or the orange sun, or the burnt sun, simply the sun. And the fascinating, this phrase, the sensory reaction it invokes. For now, maybe it's enough to soak this in. Then, maybe, a poem, or a few verses. Another blog. That's how it starts again. And maybe it will start tonight. If not, I must keep clawing my way there.

Photos by Rebecca McCue