I spent the last three days at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. It’s a busy time in my life–two graduations, a daughter moving home, celebrations–Byzantine, rococo busyness–but a friend generously offered me the tuition and lodging, and I jumped at the chance. And of course it was wonderful.
So isn’t it strange that I came home last night, my head full of writers and writing and my bookbag full of new books, only to feel let down? This morning, I’m still struggling. I feel sluggish and unhappy, weirdly hungover as if with the too-much-ness of it all.
A part of me loves being around people, talking and laughing and sharing food. I begin to feel giddy and high. At the same time I can feel my energy draining from me. A part of me longs to slip off into the woods, to find a stream to dangle my feet in, to hide and be alone. To hear no voice but a bird’s call.
You know me: I’ll settle for a latte and an hour with a novel or a notebook.
Like being at the conference, rebuilding my blog–redefining my blog journey–has been both exhilarating and hard. It’s required me to do a lot more interacting with people (and technology!) than I’m normally comfortable with. I’m not sure I’ve found the right “voice” for this sort of task. I flounder and revise and try again and I’m still uncomfortable. A friend, taking a look, emails some encouragement, “It’s hard for us introverts to put ourselves out there,” she begins, and adds, “You have so much to offer.”
But do I really have anything useful to offer? Who needs what I’ve got? If there are already so many great writers, if 300,000 books are published every year, maybe I should be spending my time on something else. And then, what?
What am I to learn from this? What questions should I be asking? What is the world’s hunger? What do I possess that I can share to meet that hunger?
In the final talk of the conference, writer, philosopher, activist, naturalist Kathleen Dean Moore challenged all of us to use our voices to save the world from those who would happily wreck and pillage it. Am I big enough to contribute to that cause? Can writing a poem about my childhood on a farm in a wet corner of Washington State contribute anything? How will anything that I write be of any help?
“A new thought–that writing is not only a reflection of what one thinks and feels but a rope one weaves with words that can lower you below or hoist you above the surface of your life, enabling you to go deeper or higher than you would otherwise go.” – Phyllis Theroux
These are the sorts of things I am worrying about this morning. And this is what I know–that each morning I open my notebook and begin weaving the rope to lower me into the deep questions and hungers that fuel all of us. It’s not what we can buy or consume that will feed us. It’s what joy we can find. It’s what we can save.
What I know about hope–about restoring hope–is that believing we can make a difference is what allows us to make the attempt. Will it have efficacy? Or will it be futile? That is not my problem. As Emily Dickinson said, “My business is circumference.”
Whatever this journey is that I’m on, writing about it is what I do. And so I write.