Silence isn’t Nothing

There are about a dozen times a day that I tell myself I should write. Some days more. And some days I give into the craziness of working motherhood and the ping pong ball effect of an anxious mind and give myself the grace, but I still hold onto the “should.” It follows me like a quiet shadow.

My social media feed is filled with some amazing writers and poets and authors – nearly all of them mothers – who share the gamut of writing experiences. There are those that bring light to the struggle of putting words to page, pushing their way through the web of issues to come out the other side, at least with a flash of their own words and thoughts in an occasional caption or newsletter. Some share flowing, fanciful poetry while others tell a powerfully real story of their own possession. 

Then there are THOSE ones – the ones that equally motivate and inspire me with their beautiful words, but also leave me feeling like a deflated balloon – that create a tangible end writing goal, share accountability Instagram Stories of their notebook or laptop screen filled with words and a cup of coffee in hand like clockwork, and achieve that final intention. All the while, these fabulous women provide their favorite writers’ quotes about writing even when we don’t have anything to write about, that it’s not the end piece that makes you a writer, it’s the act of writing, and so on and so forth.

I love all of these women. I love the ones I know well and I love the ones I’ve never interacted with. I love their honesty. I love them for simply doing. I love them because they remind me that wherever I am in my journey, it’s okay.

However, the more that I don’t write, especially in a way that people see – through a blog, through a newsletter, through a poetry challenge, through my social media feed, through published works – the more detached I feel. And when one feels detached to the process of writing, the weight of writing grows heavier, making it more and more impossible to pick up.

I’m beyond lucky to have a creative husband who writes and understands this process. We both struggle with time and the weight of creativity – and the anxiety and stress when we put it down. The more that time rolls by, the less we are writers.

This is when we start to doubt. When we pick up the pen and the ink well is empty. When we start typing and the words have no connection. When we reread a paragraph and have literally no recollection of writing it in the first place. We become our own stranger.

I’m a Type 9 empath who has a difficult time compartmentalizing my concerns and issues. Throw a case of anxiety into the mix and things magnify. If I were to write down all of the places that my thoughts bounce in five minutes, the list would be long. Here’s just a taste…

Which method will work best for finally finishing off the basement office closet: having the shelves too short but using cool brackets or creating a more built-in look with lots more work? {Research for hours and hours.} How do we get our youngest potty-trained…and what’s up with her hitting phase?! How do we teach our son about technology addiction, or is it okay for him to find comfort in his Nintendo Switch with how crazy things are in his life right now? Will our daughter ever bounce back academically from her COVID kindergarten school year? I have gotten fat (this goes down a longer rabbit hole). I only exercise sporadically; I need to be more mindful about it…same with eating. We should try hiking. Or skiing. But I need the proper boots, or the proper snow pants. Ugh, the entire house needs a purge. TOYS EVERYWHERE. I never bought those pot and pan organizers for the kitchen. I wonder if it’s even plausible to consider a socially distanced, isolated vacation this summer. Where? The library floor isn’t finished yet and I have to weed through the entire reference section. How much time would it take to… 

If you saw how many tabs I have open to research most of these issues, it would be a direct look inside my scattered mind. My brain is an unending corn row of open tabs.    

One of my favorite books to lean into when life has too many moving pieces to nail down my ability to write and I no longer know myself as a writer is Wild Words by Nicole Gulotta. From learning to write in the margins and recognizing that writing looks different as we experience different seasons, I am able to breathe a little. And what is better for your thoughts – and, hence, writing – than some fresh air?

I’m trying to breathe and allow my writing to rejoin me by leaning into and honoring the silence. Silence – and a lack of writing – isn’t nothing. It’s part of the process. Viewing it as a break rather than a final, doomed divorce can be freeing. Beating myself up because I’m not doing what I think I should be doing – and, really, any time that word enters our vocabulary, we would do well by condemning it – is only going to make it worse. Shifting my mindset by recognizing that simply living and experiencing life can give my mind the room to breathe it then opens my brain up to the possibility of creating in a nurturing space.

A flame can be sparked with just a gentle breeze; pressure can often smolder it.

By embracing the silence, by not ignoring it nor admonishing it, can we give the flame the room and time to spread. And once the wildfire spreads, writing becomes more exciting and inspired.

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