“Being a writer invades my life 24/7.”
When I read that line in Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, I thought, Exactly.
I’m not even sure when I transitioned from wanting to be a writer to being a writer, but at some point it took over my brain. All day long I take mental notes of everything I see.
The Wal-Mart employee with the raccoon eyes, snapping her gum as stands frozen, starring at a shelf, a product in her hand. Is she putting away returned items? Is she doing a price check? Has her brain frozen in place? Does she know her eyeliner is running? Does she care? Maybe she's depressed? Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her this morning after he used her toothbrush and took the last bagel. Maybe....
The squished toad on the driveway, guts spewed out its flattened mouth. Did the driver notice before they ran it over? Did I run it over? The flattened skin has the same texture as a football.
The pink hue to the light at dusk and how it makes everything softer, the same way snow makes everything look cleaner.
These are the details of my day that might work their way into my next novel. Which leads me to think about the details in the novel I’m reading and how they must come from the life of its author. She definitely spends too much time in cemeteries and has an affinity for stationary.
This morning, my daughter’s tire blew out while driving to her first day of her senior year of high school. Certainly, there’s a metaphor there. Maybe an essay? Blog post? As she shared the details of the green handled screwdriver that had somehow punctured her tire and was now sticking out of it like an arrow to the heart, I took a mental snapshot for a scene in the novel I’m working on right now about a quirky young woman who catches few breaks.
Walking the dog, I found myself narrating my actions as if I was in the story itself. “They crested the hill and were surprised to find that every single apple had fallen from the tree during the wind storm the night before. The ground was colored red and green and yellow like a stoplight.” Okay, bad simile there, but still, I continued. “Passing by the ground hog hole at the top of the pasture they saw a flash of brown. The baby groundhogs scurried for shelter and the dog strained at the leash….”
I can’t seem to stop my brain. I tell it to chill, but it doesn’t listen. Maybe I should sign up for yoga or learn to meditate. Something to stop my busy brain. As I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, I thought about a woman I know whose cancer has reached the point of hospice. I wonder if she’s written to her children. They are small now and it’s impossible to truly tell them goodbye, but has she written to the people they will be as young adults? Has she told them what she dreams for them?
I’ve been brainstorming for a class I’m going to teach for mothers of infants and toddlers this fall for Wellspan. I’m excited to explore the power of writing in a young mother’s life. Not just through sharing her experiences and trading parenting tips on blogs and websites and magazines. Motherhood is rich with writing opportunity if you see yourself as a writer, but I’m hoping to talk about more than that. I’m hoping to reach the women who don’t see themselves as writers but who can use writing to connect with their children, to document their lives, to be absolutely sure their children know how much they love them. Life gets messy for everyone. Parenting is complicated. Writing can help you sort it out. It can help you figure out what matters. It can put you in touch with your heart.
Sometimes I’m frustrated when I can’t seem to put into words what I truly feel in my heart. The perfect words that floated through my thoughts as I ran along our country roads this morning, escape me when I finally sit down to type them out. When I read the writing of someone like Shonda Rimes, who so easily, almost embarrassingly, spills her heart on the page, I think, “Yes! That’s it!” I’m grateful for her talent and strive to open my own heart unfiltered as she does.
I find there to be a magic in writing, a power well beyond me. So I’m grateful for this 24/7 invasion. It makes my days richer, even as it means that my mind is preoccupied and sometimes I forget about the clothes on the line or the tea I left steeping on the counter.
Writing makes life more real for me. I’m awed by the potential power it holds. Maybe this next sentence will change a life or lift a spirit, bring back a memory, or at the very least, make someone wonder. Maybe it will shine right through, all the way from my heart to yours.