I’m Not Sure I Know How to Write Anymore

You think a lot about writing when you commit to writing everyday. But as I think about writing, nothing captures what I’ve felt recently more than this post by Robynn. She wrote it right after coming back from India but it’s pertinent to how we’ve both been feeling so the timing is perfect. I think the question becomes – when is it time to give yourself a break? When do you need to free yourself from words and cameras and be present in the moment?

Both of us are asking this question and pose it to you. We’d love to hear from you through the comments. 

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I’m not sure I know how to write any more.

It’s been a long hiatus. I really haven’t written since early in November.  Although I’ve missed the routines and rhythms of writing, I’ve also enjoyed the freedom to just live and enjoy each moment –instead of secretly thinking how I might frame this split second up with words, how I might dress it up for a reading audience, how I might squeeze meaning out of it for my own good, but also for the good of others.

It’s sort of the same thing with photography. There are times I want to capture the now with a camera. I want it on record, digitally, that this thing happened. Relying on memory is no longer sure. My mind becomes fuzzy on the details. Over time my perspective magnifies certain details and erases others. I can’t trust it. I want the photograph. I want something tangible that I can look at remember the smells and sounds, the emotions and agonies of that one moment in time that I once lived through.

Other times the camera gets in the way of my enjoying that same moment. It dangles, an annoying appendage from my wrist, or it sits precariously against my cheekbones and my nose and it spoils my eye’s view. I can’t see what’s happening because of what I’m seeing through the detachable metallic intruder, my camera. I can’t relax and experience that particular point of time because I feel this nagging urge to capture it on my camera. The temptation exists to set things up for the sake of the camera. To live in such way that life is more photographable! As ludicrous as it sounds…I find it to be true.

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Our son bought a new camera for our trip to India. He captured his experiences on film. He journaled through pictures. But there was one day while we were in the city of Varanasi where he didn’t have his camera with him. I asked him if he had forgotten it. He shook his head and replied, “No, I didn’t want it to spoil my experience of this place.” He wanted to be there, in the city of his birth, in the land of colour and texture and noise, in the chaos of life that is India….he didn’t want to miss it, he didn’t want to hide behind his digital device.

For me, sometimes, writing is a little like that.

However writing does force a certain deliberation, an intentionality. When I write I become more contemplative. When I contemplate, I tend to be more thoughtful, more purposeful. I like that.

So I have missed writing. I have missed my interactions with Marilyn, my friend who never censors but tweaks my words and edits my commas. I have missed the comments readers leave. I’ve missed the discipline of it. To be completely contradictory I’ve missed the meaning that I often see in the midst of my mundane when I’m forced to write.

I’m back. I’m writing again. It’s time. I’ll try not to let it get in the way of my living. And I’ll try not to live in such a way as to promote my writing. I’ll write again, naturally and with sincerity because it brings me joy, because I have a few things yet to say, because there are a few people still listening.

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This post is about more than writing so what about you? Do you struggle with being present in the moment? Struggle to find a balance between living life in person and living life online? Social media has been a gift for so many of us who have moved often and frequently, a gift of connections we thought we’d lost. But how do we balance living in the moment with those next to us with connecting through writing, photography, and social media interactions?

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5 thoughts on “I’m Not Sure I Know How to Write Anymore

  1. I was sitting alone in my home this morning, it is rare that I am completely alone, and it was quiet and peaceful, I could hear the sparrows chirping outside and I was thinking how many lovely moments my life has been made up of, moments of peace and love, lots of overwhelming love, moments of beauty, moments of wisdom and sharing, moments of quiet reflection. i was thinking how much value a lot of people put on the material things in their life and how unimportant they really are in the scheme of things. In that one moment I was happy for various reasons and for no reason at all.
    Why am I meandering here, just wanted to keep that moment safe so I thought I would store it here as it is more reliable than my memory. :)

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  2. Oh, what good questions! I find it rare to run into another writer who is willing to ask these hard things about living in the present and not on the page, but these thoughts have bothered me a good deal. I wrote about them several months ago here: http://bryanajohnson.com/2013/05/27/on-dorian-gray-pre-raphaelitism-the-treason-of-all-clerks/ and have since made a great many changes to my own writing schedule, trying to live up to what I wrote about. What haunts me most are these words from Auden:

    All will be judged. Master of nuance and scruple,
    Pray for me and for all writers, living or dead;
    Because there are many whose works
    Are in better taste than their lives, because there is no end
    To the vanity of our calling, make intercession
    For the treason of all clerks.

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    1. Thank you for your comments…. Thanks especially for sharing that prayer. I found it very sobering…. Grace and wisdom to those who live by the pen.

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  3. Robynn, very wise of your son – maybe wise beyond his years.

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/10/stop-taking-so-many-pictures-all-the-time-because-its-ruining-your-memory/

    Our family has never been great at taking pictures – but I am pleased when I’ve kept a journal about a trip or some other event. I love to go back and read about the funny things we said or the people we met. Do you wonder if the essence of our experience is what we saw, or is it what we felt about and how we interacted with what we saw?

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    1. It is interesting Donna to hear you pose that final question. I sometimes look at a picture of an event and I remember that moment….but I also recall the emotion surrounding the moment. A wave of residual emotion often sweeps over me that seems to have very little to do with the captured experience in the photograph. I think you are on to something….perhaps our experiences are best weighed by how we interacted emotionally, spiritually, relationally to that moment in time.
      I’ll wait for ten years before I tell Connor he’s wise beyond his years :) !!
      I would sure love to see you again…..

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