I received a copy of Valley Haggard’s book The Halfway House for Writers from a friend for my birthday. Since we were taking Valley’s writing class together, I thought the book would just be reinforcement for the class.
I began reading on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t put it down until I turned the last page. Then I sat in stillness, allowing the words I had just read to sink in, and I realized, as a life-long journal writer and aspiring memoirist, that writing was so much more than placing perfectly formed syntax on the page, or coining a phrase of literary magnitude to be quoted at some later date, or pushing the reader to the edge, wherever that may be.
Sitting with my thoughts, a feeling of warmth circulated up my spine, like when someone gives you a hug and you can actually feel the warmth, the caring, the healing, radiating to you. Then I realized why Valley’s words about her life as a writer and writing rang so true. Writing is not something that is “out there” waiting to be placed on the page. Writing is nothing more than life itself, the bat-shit crazy, messy, twists and turns-life, the straight path-life that sometimes takes to you to new places, and it’s so imperfect that no matter how the words emerge, just like life, it’s all beautiful. Most importantly, it doesn’t have to be this or that, good or bad, naked or dressed. I just have to accept where it is and let it live, to let it be scary, dramatic, hazy, or lovely.
From now on, I will meet the words half way, and love them as they birth themselves on the page. This realization is my writing ‘aha’ moment. The pressure is gone. These are the words of life. So, I’ll never stop writing, but I will stop judging, stop fearing, and stop worrying about what’s coming forth on the page. And just maybe, life off the page will be the same.
Katherine Sullivan has been writing her memoir since the age of twelve. A retired school teacher, she now loves to spend time with her five grandchildren, travel, plant herbs, eat at excellent restaurants, and read with her book club. As a yoga teacher and student, she credits yoga with saving her life (as well as the therapy derived from journal writing).