on learning how to pedal again
I wrote this post several months back, while I was living in Georgia. It was, quite literally, the first thing I'd written just for me in months. And though I've started writing other things again, it still captures how I feel about writing.
I haven’t written anything in a really long time.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve written a lot of journal entries, blog posts for my business, emails to friends, family, and colleagues, some snail mail here and there, and a ridiculous number of Facebook posts, Instagram descriptions, and tweets.
But I haven’t written anything in a really long time in order to just write.
I didn’t know how to start. It feels like I’ve lost my rhythm — like I left my bike in the garage for too long and my wheels rusted over and I’ve forgotten how to pedal.
Then my wise friend Elora told me just what I needed to hear — start with the first word. And the second word. And keep on going until you find that rhythm again.
Even now, I struggle to not only find rhythm, but focus.
I check my email. I look at Facebook. I pick up my phone to see if I’ve gotten any more texts or Instagram likes. I shift from tab to tab, searching for any distraction from this rhythm that I’ve lost and want desperately to find, but don’t quite know how.
I’ve been telling stories for my whole life.
It perhaps sounds a bit cliche, but for me, it’s true. Of course, I wasn’t always writing them, but practically since I learned to speak, I’ve been coming up with elaborate tales of grand adventure, knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, and happy endings. I told them with my paper dolls and my Polly Pockets and practically anything I could get my hands on.
Writing has played such a pivotal role in my existence and development as a person.
For fifteen years now, I’ve regularly poured my heart out onto some kind of page — be it a journal or a little corner of the internet. And in that process of writing, of letting the words spill out of me, I have been changed.
I’ve experienced incredible marvels and revelations as words have poured out of me. I’ve written the words and had to stop myself, because I didn’t know I knew something until I’d just written it down.
Words have long captivated me.
I pour over books, falling in love with characters — the lives they live, the world in which they live, the things they encounter. My heart aches as their hearts ache and I feel like I lose a little bit of myself when a story must come to an end. I have imagined book characters as my best friends and wondered what it would be like to live as they lived, wondered what it would be like if Avonlea or Narnia or the other beautiful lands and places were reality.
I have been stopped in my tracks by a phrase turned in just that way.
I believe words are meant to be savored. Like an exquisite meal or a midnight sky dotted with stars, beautiful words are meant to be taken in slowly. They are meant to be encountered like a deep breath. Inhaled, slow and deep, with intention and with purpose. Never rushed or hurried through.
Words were meant to be read, not skimmed. They were meant to be devoured with a cup of tea in hand, curled up in the folds of a warm blanket. They were meant to be shared and discussed and relived and rediscovered in countless ways by countless people around the world, day in and day out.
My life has always been a busy one. I am a person with what sometimes seems like hundreds of dreams, aspirations, and goals.
I once read a blog post in which an author said he was only ever good at writing, and that was a blessing, because otherwise he wouldn’t have had the discipline to hone his craft. I admit, I felt envious of him in that moment.
I have felt envious of others in this same way — those people I know who have a deep and abiding love for one thing, a passion for just one career or life path. Their attention is focused, resolute.
Then there’s me — floating about in the wind, from one passion to the next because I have so very many. And because I have so many passions and dreams, I have never felt like there is enough time in a given day. I have never felt that I have enough time to accomplish all the things I hope and dream and desire.
I have to choose. What will I focus on in this season?
And partially by necessity and partially by choice, words seemed to be put aside for the most recent season. There was a new job to be learned and another dream to get off the ground. And so my words suffered. I scribbled them in journals and wrote them in emails and when it came time to write the words in my heart and in my bones, it seemed all the words were dried up. Or the time was gone. Or both.
But lately, I’ve felt the words pushing back up to the surface.
Someone at some point said you should do something not because you can do it, but because you can’t not do it.
I’ve questioned that before. Do I write because I can do it? Because I’m good at it and I enjoy it? Or do I do it because I can’t not do it?
And it seems I have my answer.
After months of silence, of busyness, and different priorities, the words will be ignored no longer. They’ve been pushing to the surface more and more and I’ve been ignoring them. Because I “don’t have time.” A thousand different “becauses” that the words don’t seem to care the slightest bit about.
So I’m coming back to the words — a little afraid of the rust, a little afraid I’ve forgotten how to pedal, a little afraid I will fall flat on my face because I just can’t do this writing thing anymore.
Or maybe it’s not so much a fear that I can’t do this writing thing anymore.
I am clearly still capable of stringing together letters and words and sentences in a somewhat comprehensible manner. But I’m afraid I’ve lost the why of my writing. I’m afraid I’ve lost the ability to articulate the part of my story that isn’t a copy everyone else’s, the story in my soul that is uniquely mine.
I want to write about life and celebration and beauty. But I also want to write about the hard and scary things of life, because sometimes those things just have to be talked about.
I know, perhaps, what it is.
Someone told me once that my writing seemed a bit academic, a bit journalistic. Which makes sense. I did get my degree in journalism, after all.
If I’m honest, though, that scared me. Because I don’t want my writing to be journalistic or academic. Words to me are poetry, they are art, they are loveliness and beauty. And I don’t think of poetry or art or loveliness or beauty when I think of academic or journalistic writing.
I used to be a poetic writer. I used to write stories that flowed and captured the heart and soul. I wrote scenes that grabbed you, that wrenched your heart and made tears flow. And I’m afraid I’ve lost that. I’m afraid that in the name of training and education and degrees, my writing has changed in a way I don’t like.
See, the only reason I truly majored in journalism is because I was afraid. My whole life I wanted to be a novelist. As a child, I poured over the words of Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle and I dreamed of one day holding my words in my hands, of walking into a bookstore and seeing a story I’d written on those shelves.
But saying I wanted to be a novelist seemed stupid. It seemed impractical. It felt akin to saying, “I want to be famous when I grow up!” So in the name of responsibility, safety, and security, I went with what I thought was the next best thing — journalism.
And for years I wrote article after article about politics and health, sports and arts. I wrote hundreds of articles in those three years of college before Jesus stopped me in my tracks mere months before I walked across a stage to get my degree. He forced me to come face to face with my deep desire to write stories for the world to read and the way I’d retreated in fear to the newspaper office.
But here I sit, four years after walking across that stage, still unsure of how to start finding that story again.
I began working on a novel a couple of years ago. I sent a few chapters to a friend of mine for feedback. She said it was a good start, but it didn’t sound quite like me. It sounded forced in a way, like I was trying.
My favorite authors are the ones whose words are effortless. The best way I can think to describe their words is like melted butter. It just flows. There’s a poetry and a lyrical quality to their writing. You can picture exactly what they’re describing — the sights, the sounds, the feelings, and the smells. The most mundane and ordinary thing can become exquisite when they describe it.
And that’s what I want my writing to be, because that’s how it used to be. And if I’m completely honest with myself, I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to get back to that. But, at the very least, I'm going to try.