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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Landscape of Words

Today was special.  Today was a celebration.  It was a celebration of one year ago, when I had stepped through a door I had kept closed all my life. 
One year ago, I began to write a blog, and put my writing out into the world.
Opening this door opened me to my vulnerabilities.  What if no one wanted to read my blog?  What if they read it and despised it?  Or worse, dismissed it as mediocre and trivial?  I was haunted by “What if?”
Hugging my insecurities, I walked into this liminal space and began to write.   Began?   No, that is not true.  I had been writing since I was eight--journals, stories and poetry.  The space I had entered was the mystery of exposing my words and thoughts to readers.
The year of blogging reminded me of the essentials of writing: opening lines, engaging the reader, showing instead of telling.   I battled my urges to pepper everything with adjectives and adverbs.  I struggled to use fewer words.  Reading through the blog entries, I recognized that I had to learn and re-learn these elements.  The war with my words was constant.
As I honed my skills, I felt naked in front of a crowd of readers.  Though I knew a score of my readers, the rest were strangers.  They were readers who followed the blog privately, who showed up in stats as numbers and countries.   Why were the numbers important?  People were reading my blog.  But, it was like standing blindfolded, reading to unseen listeners, whose numbers and positions varied according to the day.  A mystery.
Blogging made me examine the roles I had: woman, wife, mother, step-mother, grandmother, friend, lover, gardener, retired person, volunteer, writer – yes, writer.  What could I learn from these and the other roles I had played in my life?  I squeezed my self-concepts to wring out the opinions and perceptions that weren’t valid, that were cultural baggage.  As much as possible, I flushed those.  What was left?  What was I about?  What was my purpose?
I found intensity.  When I cooked, I noted smells, tastes and sounds, fed my body and nourished my mind with textures and images.  When I gardened, I touched the soil, yanked weeds, planted new life.  The physical experiences gave way to emotional responses, each informed the other.  When I made love, I revelled in the joy and reflected on the spiritual connections in loving.  I focused.  I observed.  I gained a clear point of view from which to write.  Embraced what was mine.
I searched for ways to connect with readers, to find words to tell my truth so that it touched the “Ah, yes!” in the truth of others.  I wanted to connect, to find places where we were the same, all part of the human family.
Writing forced me to observe, and to study what I observed.  Writing gave me the tools to talk about it. 
What were my values?  How did I spend my time?  Was that activity achieving what I wanted?  Needed?  What drew me closer to discoveries of myself?   What enabled me to see that self in others?
Answers came.  If I wanted to be a writer, I had to write.  If I wanted to touch readers, I had to tell the truth, to be open and bare, to be vulnerable.  If I wanted to hone my skills, I had to start where I was, be who I was, and I had to work.  I had to accept and befriend my insecurities.  If not, the door would have remained closed.
Yesterday, my mother responded to a question from her cousin.  “What’s Carol doing these days?”
Mum’s answer: 
“She’s learning to write.”
Yes, I’m learning to write.  I’ve been learning all my life.  The journey through this landscape of words is endless, so today I celebrated.


Gwen Buchanan said...

what a lovely open and real post Carol.. it makes me smile contently.. you are very good at what you do..
... and even though you have had a pen in your hand for your lifetime, it is only the beginning!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Congratulations on your year of blogging!

We never stop learning to write....

Anonymous said...

i like it !!!! awesome !!!! wendy

Jane Tims said...

Hi. I am glad you decided to begin. I remember how it felt to begin my Blog... I worried for three weeks and then I just started. You are right... it is a great way to practice writing. Jane

Carol Steel said...

Thank you Gwen. You are generous in your praise. I appreciate your words.

Carol Steel said...

Thank you Juliet. I don't ever want to stop learning!

Carol Steel said...

Thank you Wendy. Always good to hear from you.

Carol Steel said...

I worried for weeks before I began also. The only way to learn is to do it. Thank you, Jane.