“Five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate… a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.” ~ Virginia Woolf
Some people are trying to raise children. I’m trying to raise a writer.
I’m trying to raise my writer self, and in doing so, I’ve had to discover what works for her.
Like a neglected child, she often has to be sweet talked after so many times of being set aside.
After dreaming so many dreams of becoming a writer and waking up to find myself a server, salesperson or teacher, my writer self sometimes sneers and says, Oh, please with that, like you’re ever…
My writer self is a wild, unruly child, but when in solitude, she dances, sings, gives speeches, and writes books.
However, when she hears a key in the door, a television, or God forbid, someone asks, “What are you up to?” she freezes.
It’s not fear so much as shifting gears from action demanding my whole being into interactions with another, even if it’s just being alert to their presence or saying hello.
Politeness demands turning from introspection into simple conversation.
Sometimes it’s the subtleties of life that let me settle for not writing, while a small shift can send me into an afternoon dancing with words.
Our writer selves require solitude, a space of our own, and time unleashed.
This is where pondering presents epiphanies, and profound ways of seeing or expressing ourselves.
It sounds simple. Go to your room, a coffee shop, or a park. Ta-da! Here’s your time! Sure, but it’s not just physical space we seek. We must find the mental space away from the chaos of daily life and to-do lists.
Amid the noise, without an agent, deadline, or outside demand, the small voices shout—to return my father’s phone call, check my email, do the laundry, or more often, put away the pile of laundry I did last week.
We need a lock on the door of our writers’ minds—the passageway into the world of words that refuse to dance in the company of commotion.
Sometimes, we wait for words. What if words await us on the other side of that door, pages preparing themselves to be written, if we can just lock out life’s little inconveniences?
Five hundred a year, some relative sum from Virginia Woolf’s time, purchases physical security—money pays the rent, feeds the dog, and keeps the lights on—and mental opportunity—the permission slip that says: Writing, you may now step to the front of the line.
When writing is relegated to farther back than our souls intend, it gets impatient, even petulant, watching us rush about.
Writing grabs furiously for our attention, the way an ignored child would, staring us down as we dart away to teach yoga, be present for margaritas with the girls, or make the meet-up group for writers.
What about me? writing cries.
She whines in the background while we resists with lists: I’ve got to order tires for my car. What are we doing for Thanksgiving dinner? Do I need to shop? Oh God, is Christmas really coming again this year? Sh*t! I forgot to call my dad. Oh, and those clothes!
Investing in contemplation ignites and expands our writing into ideas and words that flow, rather than feeling forced.
Time to mentally wrestle is the gift many of us deny ourselves in the same way we deny other luxuries.
How is it we feed ourselves junk media and divorce ourselves from nourishing contemplation?
We don’t have time. Yeah, like we don’t have time to work out.
Contemplation feeds a writer’s soul like mama’s cooking feeds the body.
The writing self, at least mine, needs nurturing.
She craves my attention and direction. She wants to be told it’s ok to play.
Contemplation is play, but that doesn’t get much credit in our society.
Contemplation isn’t something you pursue, win, or earn recognition for. It’s not like a degree, a man or a promotion. Thought is its own reward.
Contemplation catapults our writer selves into their own private rooms filled with writer toys: pens, paper, keyboards, words, and quiet.
Shhh, lock the door. Don’t tell anyone we’re in here. Let’s create something beautiful.