How I write, recently.


from a recent walk among the redwood trees


Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.

(from Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown)

Spring is a vulnerable time. All of nature is stretching, trying to wake up and change rhythm amidst the lingering cold. I stare at the impending “snowflake” symbol on my Weather app in disbelief, because it’s about to be April. And yet there is a forecast for snow.

Annually, I fall in this kind of lockstep with the earth. Mending, thawing, breaking new ground. Fighting through strange and untimely storms to get to the bloom.

I’ve been writing. It helps. Recently several friends have asked me how I collect my thoughts on paper, and I want to answer, “Kind of like a forest.” The roots of words begin, and I try to allow all the branches to grow as they may. I have somewhat of a system, but I think the key is to stay open to everything so that there is room to feel, to be willing to stay vulnerable. Because that’s what writing entails. (I wrote some thoughts about “who I write for” last year.)


As Maria Popova says (via the Tim Ferriss Show), “Write for yourself.”

If you want to create something meaningful and fulfilling, something that lasts and speaks to people, the counterintuitive but really necessary thing, is that you must not write for people. The second you begin writing for or to a certain audience, you’ve lost the long game. Because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run, requires most of all keeping yourself excited about it. The key to being interesting is being interested.

She also adds some interesting color about why you shouldn’t think of your writing as “content.” It’s sad that many of my friends stop blogging or writing altogether because they feel their voices are irrelevant, or they feel pressured to produce “content” so that they will get more “likes” and “follows.” We become equally afraid of rejection as we are of exposure. What if people read my writing and hate it? What if no one reads it?

I’m just as afraid. But I try to stay flexible in the interest of writing past the fear, even if it means sacrificing a level of consistency in the mediums I use.

Boris Pasternak said in a beautiful conversation published in The Paris Review:

One must live and write restlessly, with the help of the new reserves that life offers. I am weary of this notion of faithfulness to a point of view at all cost. Life around us is ever changing.

Writing and blogging should be about finding your own voice, not necessarily always about “creating content.” Recently I have been trying it all:

  • writing before going to bed in a black notebook that sits on my bedside table
  • documenting my days and travels in a new blog (over 65 entries in less than one month!)
  • sending letters to friends and to my mom
  • experimenting with sending Tiny Letters (I’d love to hear back from you)
  • jotting notes on all the things I read in my Simplenote
  • writing every day of 2016 in my Day One journal:

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.02.09 AM

I feel increasingly inundated by articles about how to advertise using your content, how to attract followers, how to write more click bait-y titles and subject lines. By this strange pressure to “produce” something effective or impactful in numbers rather than emotion, and to measure everything.

Don’t we crave something personal? A space to put up our feet and feel less alone about our human state of loneliness, our elation, our peace, our doubts and questions about love? Stories about the looks we exchanged on the train, the way hands reach out for other hands? The feeling in the backs of our throats when our hearts are breaking? The joy we feel in open spaces and sunlight?

I do. I wonder if this is a last frontier, writers and poets roaming around with our hearts out. Not trying to sell a point of view or a strategy for getting more readers, but just speaking candidly about our universal hope and pain and all.

Maybe even robots need rest, a shoulder to lean on. Someone to make them feel they are not alone.

As Jane Kenyon says,

Tell the whole truth. Don’t be lazy, don’t be afraid. Close the critic out when you are drafting something new. Take chances in the interest of clarity of emotion.

Aren’t we the lucky ones, that we have this vast mixture of apps and analogue to be as random and creative and angry and hopeful as we could ever want to be, on a page or on a screen? The common thread is that no matter where I am writing, I try my best to write towards myself. I write towards a story. I write towards healing, even when I’m breaking completely apart.

In an incredible commencement speech, artist Teresita Fernández discussed the Japanese concept of kintsugi, which I’ve wanted to mention here for a long time:

In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.”

But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself. Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success.

All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.

I’ve already journeyed an enormous amount this year already, not necessarily just geographically, but in every other possible sense of the word. I love coming back here to nestle in next to you, bursting with all the things I can’t wait to show you, as you’ve walked with me over the course of all these changing years and seasons.

Here’s to patching ourselves with little rivers of gold.

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  1. Pingback: What else could go right? – rose in midair

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