During my lunch hour yesterday, I pulled out a couple sheets of lined paper. I wanted to write something during my lunch hour, so I pulled out the digital recorder and played the first thing that came up.I listened to a recording of possible chapters for the memoir I’m finally beginning to work on. While nothing really stood out to me, I decided to make some notes, then try to recall details about that particular time. For some reason I decided to write part of the “Building a House” chapter.
I began detailing the fact that when I moved back to Michigan, Habitat for Humanity was building a house across the street from me, next door to my half-great uncle (another long story). I meandered into my previous experiences with Habitat for Humanity, and ended up at my aborted Spring Break trip to Slidell, Louisiana to rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina my junior year.
All of a sudden, I had a flood of images to work with and all of these different directions to go in. My pen was moving faster and my mind had found a groove. The various lunchtime noises around me–a microwave running, another microwave beeping, Contessa on MSNBC, chatter amongst my coworkers–began to fade as I fell deeper and deeper into the writing. When I looked up, I was alone except for a co-worker checking Facebook on her phone with a bored expression.
This is what I learned about writing: you could say writing is like riding a bicycle or starting your car on a cold morning. You never really forget how to ride a bike. If you let your car warm up a bit, it runs the same as always. But what I would say is that writing is like a faucet that hasn’t been turned on in a long time in an old home. There’s still good water there, warmed and ready to be used, you just have to turn the tap on. When you do, some of the water will come out brown from rust and unusable, but if you let it run long enough, it will clear.
I’ve been writing nothing but blog posts (and plenty of them) for weeks, and I must admit my other writing skills are still a bit rusty. The goal is to continue to let it flow until it’s clear again. Some of what I write will be disjointed, littered with sloppy transitions and poor word choices. Some of it will be so bad I’ll question if there’s anything usuable in me. But the point is to continue until the writing is fluid and life giving again.
I keep seeing this quote on my twitter feed exhorting me not to worry about writing well; just write. I’ve always had a problem with crappy first drafts, but I’m trying to take that advice. The longer I keep writing, the cleaner the writing will be. I can clean up the mess later.
I have no idea how I’m going to get back from Slidell to Michigan, nor from Christian college students building homes on Spring Break to college students building Habitat homes into the bitter cold of late autumn. I have no idea how I’m going to “build” this literary “house” either. But what I do know is that I’ll try to enjoy the journey, and that brick by brick I’ll build the literary powerhouse I want to be.
How do you get back in the creative swing of things? How do/did you come back to writing after a hiatus? Any tips or suggestions?