Spinning straw into gold: thoughts on writing.
For the last few days, I’ve sat in a dark room giving memories their proper burials.
I can imagine the way the funeral director wrings her hands beneath the hot water faucet as she preps to make settings of “goodbye” for so many. It feels a lot like that; writing a book is like finally saying goodbye to memories and finally having the courage to let go for good as you script just enough to tell your friend over a cup of coffee, “I’ve used up all the words. It’s over now.”
I didn’t imagine writing a book would feel this way. I'm one month into writing a book and I didn't imagine it would be like this. I’m certain now that I will write a book about writing a book just so I can write the line, “It was the most hauntingly beautiful process I’ve ever experienced, to sit in a room and play with ghosts of what used to be all day.” You feel like you’re living six lifetimes in a single day. It’s like God is asking you to stare at all the moments when you should have been a nobler character and then learn to give grace to yourself somehow. I’m sitting on the floor, thinking of how crazy it is that I’ve worshipped a God who cakes the mountaintops with grace for me, but this is the first time I’m finally gaining enough courage to not withhold it from myself.
And I’ve never felt more human in this moment as God tells me not to stop the heartbreak, not to resolve the heartbreak, but simply to wade out into the middle of it and scream out how deep it really is. We’ve never needed one another to resolve the heartbreak for us, so much as we have needed to know that others have felt the depths of it too.
I thought it would be different than this.
I thought I’d sit square in the middle of a room with the sunlight on my face and the clacking of keys in my ears as the coffee neglected to grow stale and birds that I borrowed from Snow White gathered my hair up into a sock bun. Instead, it’s like somehow braiding flower crowns out of verbs & adjectives & nouns to hush out the ashes of the words you cussed on the day you discovered he didn’t love you like that any longer. Writing is just another form of polishing and prettying up the broken-open moments of this lifetime so that they can go on display for other people to interpret. Writing is just the right eulogy for all the memories we haven’t let go of yet. Enough to coax them out of our hands and onto a page.
I find myself wrapped up in a camo jacket nearly every morning. The coffee grows stale quickly. I forget to eat. I am too busy sifting and sorting words for the day. And there is something so freeing about being unbelievably imperfect on the page within a world where all I’ve ever tried to be for other people is perfect. I’ve breathed in enough gritty stories to say, at last, “screw perfection.” Perfection would mean we never let one another go. And honestly? Now I know it meant everything to unclench my fists and let it happen. Perfection would mean that the pieces always fit. And honestly? It was in the mess of broken pieces that we both learned grace. Perfection would mean it never hurt like hell with a chainsaw in its hand to see you drive away and not come back for me. And honestly? I needed to get the life socked out of me to understand how much courage it takes to get back up on your own two feet.
When I finish this book, I’ll stay there was an anthem sitting behind every word I wrangled and sweet-talked into staying on the page. It’s two single lines from a Jason Mraz song that I cannot help but listen to every single night before the world falls asleep:
And what a beautiful mess this is/ it’s like picking up trash in dresses.
Every morning, I am sitting beside piles of other people’s memories. I’m sifting through the things you’ve called garbage for far too long. It isn’t garbage and you & I both know that those feelings have never been so disposable as you made them seem. You got hurt. You didn’t win. You regretted it. You let her down. You think you cannot possibly be redeemed. And you’re no different from me.
What happened is not everything. What happened isn’t the end to our little stories. It matters more what we do with it all. The memories. The broken middles. The wrecking ball moments. What matters is if we let them keep wrecking us or we spin them into gold.
Step one is realizing that the story never owned you. It never has the power to victimize you if you change the words from the beginning. Step two is realizing that your story is a symphony. Maybe it will be a poem for someone else. A cup of hot chocolate in a styrofoam mug in the heart of October. A light on and a mother standing out on front porch saying, Child, please come home.
You won't know what your story will be to someone else until you actually let someone touch it and find their humanity somewhere deep inside of it. You cannot wait to know everything to finally sit down beside the page and sift through the trash of it. You just need to be willing to make piles of the things you’ve never fully understood and, from some of those piles, make sand castles.
You’ll never know what your story could be for someone else until you make that first sandcastle. Until you say to the water, “You won’t wash away these words of mine.”
That is the goal of a writer, maybe. Maybe that is the goal. Maybe this it: If I can somehow make a single sandcastle--just a single one--out of something you’ve never understood but have always felt in the deep of you, then I’ll be a writer. Maybe I’ll be a writer then.