When I told my writing group that I planned to write one blog post per day in June, Kay, a poet, gave me a warning.
“Don’t write crap.”
I laughed, promised her I’d do my best. My goal was to set habit, routine. I’m a decent writer, so I figured the content would be decent.
“A little crap may creep in,” I said, “But I’ll aim a higher.”
Writing quality content every day proved to be more of a struggle than I imagined.
Even the fact that I use the word “content” reveals part of my problem.
For years, I have been a content machine. I post how-to’s. I share articles. I record tutorials. I think in terms of traffic, clicks, reach and relevance.
Fiction, or creative work of any kind, may completely lack discernible relevance. Creative work may have no goal other than to exist, resonance with another soul the only bonus.
The first two weeks weren’t too hard. I could write some cute little pieces and fill in the dry days with new summaries of old work. My posts are decent enough. Go take a look.
Then, on a Tuesday night date at a jazz club, I heard a vocalist sing a song so beautiful, so full of story and raw emotion, that it arrested me physically. I held a mouthful of wine for an entire song. I gulped it down at the applause, just as my husband leaned in to kiss me, fearing he’d notice I’d been holding a swig of alcohol in my mouth.
Oh. That’s what art looks like.
I’m fighting my way back to art. I write my way past business and expectation, through weary and worn, shallow and slighted. There is art in me, though now years of key word excrement may coat it thoroughly.
It bothered me that I had this revelation while I was drinking. I don’t drink much anymore. Not since my mother’s intervention. However, I’m better when I’m tipsy. Honest. Accessible. Those careful bars I erect to protect myself become but gossamer threads. If you take a deep breath, puff it out in a burst of air, you’ll knock down all my defenses. And there I’ll be, unobstructed, soulful. Brilliant.
My notebook from that night is full of inky scribbles, fragments, paragraphs and single words to illuminate whole ideas or impressions. If I wish, I have a week’s worth of great content to mine from those pages.
Date night passed, fully sober, I set myself to the task of keeping the door open on my guts. Try not to lose access. I have to go deeper. I need to know what makes me this way and how I may survive myself.
My mother is an alcoholic in the early stages of recovery. Her psyche may currently lack the stability to bear the searching questions of her youngest daughter.
My grandmother doesn’t drink. Did she ever? My dear Renny, from whom I inherited my love of lists and forward motion, does her soul perch on the skin of her fingertips, or does it dwell somewhere deeper, only accessible when the mighty walls have been marinated in moist drink?
This weekend I will drive the windy, tree-lined road up to her ranch. I’ll sit her in the plastic chair in her garden, send my daughter to run wild in the woods as all good young women do, and I will demand answers.
Why am I this way? Why do I fear people? Why does my family drink? Why did all my aunts despise my grandfather? Why does my sister resent me? What about those old stories I heard, about your husband, my wizard, your sister, a divorce and a remarriage that never happened.
Perhaps if I learn the secrets, I will be free.