Many writers struggle with the act of not writing. With calling themselves writers when they don’t write every day, every week, every month. With questioning their identity as writers.
Exactly one year ago, I talked about writing as a relationship. This year, I wasn’t sure for a long time whether my relationship with writing will go on. Was this it? Was it over? Have I given it my all and now I was depleted? Or were we entering a new era? I didn’t know. For a long time, I didn’t know. And all I could do was to embrace the not knowing, and once in a while, to write. Not a lot. Not what I used to write. For a while, all I could write was poetry. My rational mind rushed to label it: it is not even bad poetry.
Had I been in love with writing too much? Had I given it all I had too fast, too at once? Was it just a flame or was it real? Was it something I had played with for a while because it pleased my ego or was it real, sustained love? I didn’t know, and as much as I tried to rationally squeeze out the answer, the real answer wasn’t there yet. I didn’t know if it will ever come. In the middle of it all, I took a break from teaching. What did I have to give others if I couldn’t give it to myself? I took a life purpose coach class and struggled with the notion that we had one true calling. I knew I was a multipotentialite, but in the middle of the confusion of where I stood with my writing and various health issues, I could no longer see how my writing and I would go on.
Some years ago, a friend I made in Ulm had described me on my CouchSurfing profile as a real person. “This may sound stupid, but I think of Diana as a real person. I think she is who she wants to be.” Was all that gone? Had I drifted so much from myself, overwhelmed by work-related stress (I have a non-creative writing full-time job too) and family issues, that I could no longer find my way back in? Or was I walking new paths? If yes, then I had no clue where these new paths could take me.
And I still don’t fully know. I’m getting glimpses of what is perhaps to come, but I still don’t fully know. But I think that in my struggle to make too much room for my writing and my teaching, I let both eat me up. Ironically, I was struggling with digestive issues during this process. Food gave me heartburns and stomach pain. Sometimes, it still does. I let my writing devour me, while my body could no longer feed on anything else. And that, dear writers, is not a healthy relationship.
Just like in romantic relationships or lasting friendship, boundaries matter. You don’t want to be with somebody who constantly asks for it all. Except that writing didn’t ask. It was me who was doing it all. Going at it as if I had no time left. And during this time, trying my best to teach slowness. But I wasn’t living it, not deeply. Only on the surface. It is not easy, isn’t it, to balance it all? The act of balance is a myth. And perhaps we spend all our lives negotiating that balance and those boundaries, that space between too much and not enough.
Think of what happens when you write. You sit, usually alone, facing yourself, dealing with all the good and the bad inside yourself and the world. And as a multipotentialite, making room for writing on top of a paying job (replace with or add to that being a single mom, ageing parents, or recovering from a difficult illness) can be a painful process, because it comes at the cost of everything else. There is never a right time to make more room for your writing.
When I was writing heavily, I wasn’t enjoying a social life. I wasn’t eating healthy or working out regularly. I wasn’t going hiking much – hiking, one of the main reasons why I had moved to the Munich area, to be close to the mountains. I think that slowly I am finding my way in, and my way out. I think that slowly I am learning to love myself and my writing the way we truly deserve – without spending it all at once. It is a continuous learning process.
While writing can be a very solitary process, I refound my joy to write by writing together with other people, on a collaborative book project. The project died a natural death, but it taught me something about what I write, and about what I give. My writing was entering a new era. And this time, we were not alone. We were making room for other relationships, for other types of writing. It was uncomfortable at first. Like learning a new way to walk after recovering from an accident, or driving a new car after many years of not driving (I am myself a terrible driver), or moving to a new city/country (which I’ve done too often, but it never gets easier). My writing and I were entering a new era. We were embracing change.
I am back to writing alone – none of the collaborations I had embarked on over summer worked out – and yet, here we are, my writing and I, still entering a new era. I am back to writing non-fiction. I am new to microfiction. You know how they say that sometimes people break up exactly at the point where things could change, and the relationship could take new turns, and head towards something more real? I am glad my writing and I didn’t separate, because we’re certainly not done yet. Not at all. In fact, we are just getting started.
In which ways are you a writer? In which ways do you feel like a total fraud when it comes to writing? How is your relationship with writing similar to mine? How is it different?