I don’t keep a diary.
I journal my prayers, if you want to call it that, but mostly as a way to stay focused. (I get distracted very easily, especially when I am talking to God in my head.)
As far as keeping a record of daily happenings, though, I don’t do it. Every now and then, however—especially before I got back into writing regularly—I’d sit down at the laptop and pound out a paragraph or two about whatever pressing thing was on my mind at the time. When I was done, I’d give the file a name I’d be sure to remember (ahem), close the document and forget about it.
Until I stumbled upon it later, that is.
Which is what I did recently when I found a little gem I wrote on Sept. 3, 2010.
To put it in context, this was about four and a half years after we uprooted ourselves from a very comfortable life in Arkansas and moved back to my home state, roughly 12 miles from where I grew up. Before we moved, I had a steady freelance writing/editing job. When we moved, I gave that up to focus on being a full-time mom and homemaker, and I hadn’t really written much of anything since.
I thought about writing a lot, and wondered when I would start again, but I never actually did. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s exactly what I wrote:
There’s no time like the present to start writing again. For years—yes, years—I have been waiting for the perfect scenario. I would be all caught up on all projects that I’ve been putting off for months—Molly’s [adoption] scrapbook, all the family photo albums, cleaning the house from top to bottom, organizing all the drawers, etc.
I would have called all the friends I have neglected for four years and had long, meaningful conversations with them. I would have arranged my schedule to include at least three complete mornings a week with no plans—no shopping, no cleaning, no meetings, nothing. I would be in my most creative phase, hormonally. I would be well rested. I would be coming off a productive quiet time.
My flower beds would all be weeded, supper already in the Crock-Pot at 8:30 a.m. and nothing else left to do. I would sit down with all the pieces of paper that I have scribbled notes on for the last eight years. I would organize them all into a perfect outline. Then—then, I thought—I would start writing. Not a blog, not an article, but a complete book, from start to finish, without stopping. I did that once, you know. Why not again?
OK then. That may be the funniest thing I’ve ever written. Or the most pathetic—I’m not sure which.
Apparently, I wrote it because I thought I was about to stop waiting for the perfect scenario and just start writing again. But as you’ve probably guessed, that’s not what happened.
I finally wrote Molly’s scrapbook in January 2013 (seven years after we brought her home from China), but I’ve penned no more books from start to finish. I have written an extensive outline and a couple of chapters, but neither that nor any other writing of much substance happened for at least three years after I wrote my little proclamation.
As a person who used to make her living writing, my season of no writing used to stress me out. When am I going to start writing again? I’d wonder. What if I can’t do it anymore?
During this time, I’m sure I broke every tried-and-true rule about writing and writer’s block there is. Just write through it. Write at the same time every day. Write for 15 minutes a day. Start a blog. Join a writers’ group.
I did none of these.
It wasn’t a matter of mechanics with me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a “real” writer anymore. My problem was emotional, spiritual, hormonal, even physical.
I hadn’t forgotten how to write. I just had nothing to say. And whenever I tried, my neck tightened up and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
This pattern continued well after I wrote that little bit on Sept. 3, 2010.
Then one day, I just decided to stop worrying about it.
I will write again—I know I will. I told myself. It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I’ve always done.
This season in the wilderness has a point. Some day, I will write about it, and it will help someone else.
I then went on about my life without a writing schedule, believing that when the time was right, I would know it.
And I did.
I started small, with a toe dip here and there. I’m still going slowly (much to the chagrin of my husband who just wishes I would hurry up and finish that book I started last year).
Yes, I have some work to do in the procrastination department, but I’m not in a hurry. If there’s one thing I’ve realized over the years, it’s that words cannot be forced. They need to simmer until they’re done, however long that takes.
There’s also a difference when I write now. My neck doesn’t hurt when I think about it. The words are coming more easily. I can write with music on in the background, or not. It doesn’t matter what the house looks like, or whether I have concrete plans for supper. Sometimes I can write something meaningful in five minutes; sometimes it takes an hour. Either way is OK.
I still have my struggles, but I’m not the person I was when I was waiting for the perfect scenario. And, as sheepish as I feel when I read what I wrote back then, I’m glad I saved it.
More than anything else, it shows me that those years in the wilderness were not wasted. They had a purpose, a point, a reason. I felt like I was dormant, but under the surface, I was still growing.
Spring was on the way, and I’m glad I was patient enough (for once in my life) to wait for it to arrive on its own.