Copyright 2017 by Raunig-Graham
The fine sunny Spring weather that warmed us on Memorial Day vanished yesterday, and I found myself wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck sweater as I headed out on my daily walk to pick up a few groceries. As I passed by the hot pink and ruby red rhododendron that brighten a walk on a grey day, I shivered. It occurred to me that I will undoubtedly end up being one of those little old ladies who wears gloves and a wool coat to stay warm even in Summer. (I hope I will be as sweet as they are.) That being the case, and with a birthday just days away, I realized I’d better get cracking if I wanted to write another piece while still 72. This will be that piece, the first written this year, and the last before I turn 73.
Five months have evaporated since I have written a word. That would seem to deserve some explanation. I have definitely given it some thought during the last few months. I have blamed our November election for having zapped my creative energy, and indeed, because I believe in this country and in democracy, I have felt compelled to pay attention to news from Washington and from the rest of the world. However, I realize there must be more to it than that. My disappointment over an approach to governing that I disagree with has numbed me at times, but hasn’t left me completely paralyzed. So why haven’t I been writing?
Certainly, I have questioned myself during the last few weeks, especially as my birthday seemed to be approaching at the speed of light. Had I given up on writing? (Doubtful.) Had I lost my edge? (Maybe,) Do I have nothing to say? (Unlikely.) Haven’t I observed or reflected on anything that I could share with others? (But I have.) Or has it simply been a case of slowing down? (Ralentir, new French word learned, meaning to slow down.) Am I showing my age? (Of course.) Have I spent too much time on other interests? (Sure. I’m a dilletante. I have always enjoyed variety, from art to the study of French to reading to cooking to socializing. The distractions are numerous in our lives, and in retirement they can be considered a part of one’s healthy lifestyle instead of as distractions.)
The urge to write and the ability to write are two different things though certainly connected. I don’t believe a person generally loses the latter, the ability, unless there has been some physical or mental interference that causes an impairment. The former, however, is an ethereal thing. The urge to write can surface and evaporate, arrive in spurts and move on. One can pay attention to it, or avoid it. It can fade, of course, if one’s focus is diverted or if priorities change. And it can be damaged by external circumstances. Too much criticism, for example, whether imposed by self or others.
Once we have learned how to write, have become writers, we are often warned to exercise our “writing muscle” or we will lose it. (People so often seem to focus on the worst.) Writers who want to improve their writing are admonished to write daily in order to improve. Writing regularly and frequently does force one to consider the various aspects of writing that make it worthwhile. It forces one to think, and to organize one’s thoughts. It can enlarge one’s vocabulary and it helps a writer to develop an individual style. A writing practice is a discipline and also requires discipline. It is more about self than other. Writing just to please oneself has never seemed quite enough to me.
But what of that urge to write? In order to write, one must have that urge, a desire to create in language, to think reflectively and critically, and to express oneself in written words. Writing will occur only if one acts on that impulse to write. So here I am this morning back in front of my laptop.
When I was paid to write, it was easy to proceed with an assignment. I had to produce in order to get paid, so my “urge” to meet a deadline was strong. Blogging, being an unpaid approach to writing, needs a different motivation. If as a blogger I have a few readers who appreciate what I have to say, I am pleased, but I admit I have asked myself whether that is enough. I like feedback. As a professional writer, feedback came in the form of a check.
Writing, for me, has always been about sharing, whether sharing information in a journalistic form, or sharing ideas and themes through an essay, or to tell a story in a fictional or poetic form. Yes, there’s been the need to explore the use of language, and the beauty of language because I have that ability, but it had to be more than that. Language is about communication, and communication is about connecting to others. Bringing others enjoyment, or provoking in them a desire to think about something, to learn something, has always seemed at the core of writing to me. Writing is an act of creation and if it is worthy, it is an act of love.
In short, I write for many of the same reasons that I read: to explore, to learn, maybe to laugh, to make connections, to share. It’s never just about me.