Trees Might Bloom: On Writing
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Feel Your Feet
When I am upset or anxious or all bunched up with worry, I tend to careen off into the future or back into the past. During those times I'm rarely aware of my body.
I have a friend, who when she notices that I have gotten lost like that, gently reminds me:
"Feel your feet. Feel the sensation of your socks or shoes, or the ground or floor you are standing on. Or you can actually touch your feet, pat them, give them a little love."
This helps me feel more peaceful and brings me back into my body, in the present moment, where there are often resources for facing whatever is happening at the time.
This tool is from the second Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Trees Might Bloom: On Writing
As a sporadic and fearful writer (yes, you could even call me chicken-hearted at times) I was thrilled to discover a book called The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes. Yes! I thought. Some help.
That was five years ago. But I was too scared to do more than delve into it very briefly. Oh the irony!
But recently I picked it up again and have been reading a few pages at a time. I was very relieved to find that even wonderful and/or successful writers struggle with fear.
When E. B. White won the National Medal for Literature he said, "A writer's courage can easily fail him. I feel this daily....I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all."
Margaret Atwood said: "You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer, an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a river." (And yes, when I do get up the courage to get on that log, half the time, it seems, I roll right off into the river.)
Keyes notes that "even the prolific Anthony Burgess said he thought constantly about giving up writing because of the debilitating fear that his work wasn't good enough."
There are lots of things to be afraid of as a writer--being exposed, ignored, ridiculed...failure, success, expectations--the list goes on.
"The admonition not to take criticism 'personally' is nearly impossible for writers to abide. If they've put themselves on the page--as they should--how can they take responses to their writing any other way?" (Ralph Keyes)
That would be a good time to feel my feet.
But I can also feel elation, even wonder, when I write. Writers are world makers. What could be more amazing than that?
In response to the question, “Isn't the writing of good prose an emotional excitement?" Dorothy Sayers had her protagonist, novel writer Harriet Vane, say: "Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it's dead right, there's no excitement like it. It's marvelous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day – for a bit, anyhow.”
For a bit, anyhow. Part of a writer's need for courage is that you almost never get it dead right. Or you think you have, but when you go back and re-read it, you find it's just a mess of words. You hear it somehow inside but then it comes out muffled, distorted, blurred, thickened--you've drawn a basic stick figure when you're sensing a full portrait in oils.
And you know people might laugh, but you want them to get some flavor of that portrait so badly that you're willing to risk the ridicule. Or even worse, the boredom.
"This?" they say. "This is the great radiance you saw?"
"Yes--it's all I can manage to let through. All my poor beleaguered hands, my shrinking brain can communicate."
It may be the same for musicians, painters, counselors, lovers, parents, even gardeners.
But...you do it anyway, hoping you'll survive, hoping that as people chew on the stick figure a few seeds might drop down the back of the throat. After all, you never can tell what will happen when a seed gets inside a person. Trees might bloom.
So, at the risk of stick figures, deflation and with the hope of a seed or two, I'll share a poem.
There is an oak tree
by a southeast corner of the house,
sky-tall and holy.
At its base rest two seedlings.
Deep in protection,
they wave a fading leaf
in the November sun.
They barely know the tree is there.
Until next time,
Baby feet, Eyasu Etsub, unSplash
E.B. White, A Writer's Den
Stick figure/Leo petroglyph, Wikipedia
Oak seedling, Tree for Travel