There is a shipwreck aspect to writing. Surrender to the call means other pieces of life are abandoned. The tighter its grip, the farther I drift from ordinary. I hadn't thought of writing and me in these terms until today; until a ship I hadn't known I was waiting for sailed into view.
I am so thankful for the writers I have met recently through our blogs, yet it is still a solitary, lonely business. At times the connections make it feel more remote for I see where others have found the thread they need and I, in my own eyes, am stumbling around, getting my foot caught in a bucket, stepping on a rake, having misplaced the last known pencil. I find it impossible to explain the writing desire - or is it a compulsion? It is not like anything else that I can name...a day's work can produce pages of words, but if they are not the right words...
So much about life I find to be acts of faith and writing is surely one of them. So is getting out of bed in the morning. A writer has a place she wants the writing to take her - and those who read the words - but, at least as I practice it, the act is much closer to interpretive dance, I don't know which way I will bend until I do it, than to, say, something for which I have created an outline and have a...plan. I haven't done an outline for anything since junior college and what I remember is writing the outline after the paper. You can guess what that did to my grade.
The left side of my brain gets a lot rest. It is never invited over to play when I write; the times when it has popped in to see what we were up to, its suggestions made me feel like I was trying to swim while zipped into a sleeping bag. While taking part in a fiction writing workshop, someone asked (not the classic "where do you get your ideas?"), "How do you know what happens next?" The only, the honest answer was, "When the car pulls up, I wait to see who gets out and then tell about it."
My rescue vessel arrived in the form of a writer friend who has taken some time away from writing to do the work for which we rely on that other side of the brain. Life, rude and intrusive or the opposite, sometimes needs us to talk to attorneys, reduce soaring piles of magazines and mail, make arrangements, show up. But in talking to her, feeling our mutual urgency about whatever it is that we're doing - for neither of us is sure, we just know we have to do it - I wept for knowing that this is not madness and that fact could be confirmed.
Drama in my everyday world is, in my opinion, something loathsome and to be avoided. When I use a word like madness my self-regulator tries to give me the stink eye. I look away, knowing this isn't the exaggeration it might seem. Pushing forward with a body of work that is not a novel, not a collection of poems or short stories, more a gathering of thoughts from heart, mind and spirit, is not a wholly rational act and, because of its solitary nature, becomes a questionable investment of all the resources, down to those dollar coins the post office machines give as change.
It may be a measure of commitment, the single mindedness that makes it possible to float so far from known landmarks without having a clue that I am no longer tethered. The work may be epic, the work may be one paragraph that builds upon another, or one word, followed by three more, but the force it exerts once the call is answered could pull a bulldozer out of quicksand.
One of my core beliefs is that each of us is called to something and as long as it does no harm, the possibilities are infinite. I wobbled and waffled for years, trying to understand the call, trying to meet its expectations, halfway trying to dodge it and substitute an activity like writing. It now has me for however long it takes or however long I last. There are far more meanings to the word surrender than waving the white flag.