I’m steeped in the why bother?
It’s a fugue state — maybe you know this place — somewhere between ennui and fatigue in which the answer to every question: want to write? run? see friends? get out of bed? is met with two debilitating words: why bother?
Mired in this action-less funk, I consume more than produce. This week, I lost myself in books: a wonderful collection of essays (This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett), an engaging novel, (Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead), a brutal novel (An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay), an odd novel (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler), a poetry collection (Aimless Love, by Billy Collins), another poetry book (Tender Hooks, by Beth Ann Fennelly), and a variety of newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, junk mail, and college course catalogs. If it has words, there’s a good chance I’ve read it.
And so, in this fog in which I’ve traded my life for the pulse of print, I was encouraged when I found this nugget:
“Oh, who cares,” we sometimes think at our most blue moments. “I am boring and it is boring and writing about it all is boring too.” At times like these we need to imagine that we are writing to someone who listens to us with the rapt attention of a new lover. Someone who wants to discover all there is to know about us, all we think, all we have thought, even all we might soon think.”
— Julia Cameron, from The Sound of Paper
Remember Julia Cameron? Twenty years ago she wrote The Artist’s Way, a powerful book that gave me (and thousands of other mopey writers and artists) permission to explore our creativity — despite the outcome, despite the quality, despite all the despites.
I’d forgotten Julia. The book went big, she got popular, and she wrote more of what I thought was the same great book, just repeated and diluted. I moved away, found other fabulous books that encouraged me to keep on (What books? I’m glad you asked: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, poemcrazy by Susan Wooldridge, to name just two).
The other day I was wandering through the library in that wonderfully receptive mood in which all good books are found and discovered The Sound of Paper, a Julia Cameron book published in 2004. Yes, much of it echoes The Artist’s Way but it turns out I needed a voice from the past to bring me back to myself:
“And so, the first act of loving kindness is to start from scratch — the scratch of a pen to paper. The filling of blank pages without specific likes and dislikes, our heartfelt and regretted losses and sacrifices — this is the beginning of being someone and somewhere again. When we ignore ourselves for too long, we become exhausted and weakened from trying to get our own attention. We become disheartened—without a heart. The gentle pulse that we are meant to attend to, the ear-cocked, mothering side of ourselves that listens to a newborn and springs into action on its behalf, must be mustered now to come to our own rescue. But the rescue begins with the act of writing. Writing is how we “right” our world.”
We hear what we hear when we need to hear it.
And so, here I am. Showered, dressed, writing. Just for now. Just one page. Just today. Why bother? Why not?
It's Thankful Thursday (ahem, on Friday). Please join me in a weekly pause to express gratitude for the people, places & things (books, music, and more) in our lives. What are you thankful for today?