Recently, some unpublished JD Salinger stories were leaked. I love Salinger’s writing. His characters are old friends. When I was in the eleventh grade, I had a very vivid dream that Virginia Woolf and I were shopping for apples in the grocery store. We ran into Franny Glass, who was holding a glass jar of olives. My 21-year-old copy of Catcher in the Rye is duct-taped together.
Knowing that Salinger was very clear about these stories not being ready for publication, I decided against an eager google search. It was hard. I decided to continue the wait for the posthumous release of the rest of his work.
I believe that not all writing has to be shared.
Now that we all have blogs (and even podcasts), it seems everyone is writing. This is great. I love that so many people are writing. I am a believer in sitting down, listening, and letting it all pour out.
I am a believer that everyone has a story and that the process of writing heals.
I believe in questioning the readiness and intention of a piece before hitting “publish.”
In terms of writing something to share, I am a strong believer that there is a step that follows the pouring it all out on the page. I recently taught a writing and yoga workshop with my friend and amazing writer, Elaine Gale. In our workshop, she urged us all to sit down, write a big mess, and then go through the process of cleaning it up.
Make a beautiful mess, clean it up.
I haven’t been posting, but I have been writing a lot. Who have I been writing for? I don’t know. Maybe just for me. Maybe there does not need to be an audience. Sentences have been spilling out of pens and erupting from my tapping fingertips on the keyboard. I have been writing because I can’t help myself. I have been letting out the big, beautiful messes.
I have revitalized my love affair with the craft of writing. I am enjoying the process of writing and then spending a few hours, days or weeks away before going back in to see what happened and what I can learn. I even enjoy looking something over and dragging it into the little trash can on my desktop. I love remembering a piece I wrote as being amazingly witty, discovering it really wasn’t all that great, and then working on it so it lives up to my memory.
I love looking at something I’ve written and wondering how I can support the appropriate words with the best possible grammar.
I am reading to learn from other people’s writing – fascinated not just by the experience being shared in the story, but by how they write the story to life on the page. I listen to interviews with writers, comedians, musicians and other creatives to hear them talk about their life and process. I listen. I learn. I fall in love over and over again with being human and our amazing capacity to create.
I am not a professional writer. I write because it happens. I write because I can’t help myself. I have always written – and I am not, by any means, perfect. Typos and misspellings happen. I actively seek them out in my writing and ask: Where did that happen? Why did that happen? What was I feeling or trying to express at the moment? What can I learn from this? What does a semicolon do, really? And do I really know how to use italics?
Bringing it back to everyone is writing, I admit it: I am one of those people who winces when I see something published (and stay published) with glaring typos – be it a blog, a news story or even a Facebook post. When I see a potentially great story full of incorrect plurals and misspellings, I feel cheated. I feel sad for the story – like the story wasn’t loved enough to be cleaned up before being sent out into the world. As if the person holding the story didn’t love it enough to run spell check or go back after posting to edit.
I equate it to taking my daughter to the park without cleaning her up after breakfast. I could take this beautiful, joyful child out into the world without combing the dried oatmeal out of her hair, wiping the blueberry stains off her face or changing her out of the sticky, crusty clothes…but I won’t. Cleaned up, the sticky mess of breakfast will not be a distraction from her joyful self as she runs to the sandbox with other kids to fill endless Tupperware containers with sand and sticks. Yes, she had to get messy first – but I was able to clean her up. Nourished, happy and healthy, she will be at her best. Her smile is always beautiful, but it is most beautiful when it isn’t surrounded by a crust of old oatmeal she didn’t eat.
That is where I am with writing and why this little blog has been lightly posted upon this year. Let’s run with that metaphor a little further and just say there are some blueberry stains on the pages and I haven’t decided what park to take the kid to today. Out of respect for what is pouring out, I am not hitting publish as often. When a post emerges, it will be posted. I am focusing now on process rather than the product.
We all have stories. (No one, it should be noted, has storie’s or story’s. No one.) We can all write – we all should write, in my opinion. Writing strips us down and shows us who we are. All our bullshit and beauty stare back at us from the page when we sit back and read our work. There we are. How marvelous.
Out of respect for all that is sacred, write! Get it out. Make your mess. Don’t feel compelled to always publish or share.
If you choose to share, clean it up. Out of respect for your voice and your story, share it in its best possible light.
I vow to do the same. Whenever I am ready, I will post again.