On Writing (Reluctantly)

As part of a vigilant, valiant, and exhausting effort to be an interesting and interested person even after having pushed babies out of my body, over the last decade I have taken classes in glass fusing and slumping, pottery, pilates, rock climbing, and yoga. I have trained for a triathlon and a 10k and run number of 5ks (albeit verrry slowly). I have done boot camps and run support groups. I have re-learned knitting. I considered taking cello lessons, but decided not to after my musician father told me one's first stringed instrument should NEVER be a fretless one (and also reminded me of my short-lived attention span for the harp in middle school). I have volunteered my professional talents for five nonprofits. I have taken art classes with my daughter and done metalsmithing, print making and clay creature-ing. Dilettante is my middle name.

Through all of this, I have often tried very, very, very hard not to pursue the one creative outlet that has always come most naturally to me. Writing.

In fact, when I looked over lists of classes at the local arts center and considered expanding my talents, skills, and horizons, I skipped right over writing classes. I even considered WEAVING and BOOKBINDING for God's sakes, which don't interest me at all. But I knew I needed to do something creative that didn't involve caring for children or my professional life dreaming up marketing and communications campaigns.

Since I won the Young Author's contest in fourth grade for inspired haikus about things like winter and falling leaves, I have considered myself a writer. Through middle school, I penned somber poetry about being tortured and misunderstood and in love with all the wrong boys. In high school, I feverishly journaled and even wrote two novellas by hand in composition books (contemporary romances, thank you very much, with startlingly uninformed and referential sex scenes). And now, of course, I write professionally: white papers and press releases and marketing emails and newsletters. 

For many years, I have been certain that writing classes are a waste of my time because I am somehow, simultaneously, WAY BETTER THAN THAT and also a hopelessly lost cause who will never write anything other than corporate drivel and blog posts that are all variations on the theme of "kids say the darndest things!" and "being a white, middle-class, working mom is so hard!"

Writing? No thank you. And CERTAINLY not writing with Valley Haggard of all people who I have known since age 10 or so, who was in my creative writing Talented and Gifted class in middle school for god's sake, who chose to be on the punk rock literary magazine staff in high school while I got talked into being on the fucking yearbook because it would look better on college applications, who I adore and admire but who is a constant reminder of someone who never sold out, who never gave up writing for herself, who in fact writes regularly and beautifully and bravely (for money, for fun, for therapy) while my only writing is a constant act of corporate prostitution. NO THANKS. I would not be taking a fucking writing class with VALLEY (who, aside from being insanely talented is also gorgeous and clever and kind and creative).

But something made me do it--some nagging memory that writing used to be an absolutely essential creative outlet for me. I signed up for Valley's fucking class and I fucking loved it, and I'm not just saying that because Valley is reading this. It had been years and years and years since I wrote this way...stream of consciousness writing based on prompts, not trying to be better, not trying to work on specific skills, just WRITING. The time limit and lack of editing make it possible to throw shit out there without worrying about it being perfect, because who is perfect when unedited?

So there I was, taking a writing class, and it was the highlight of my week. I thought about it all the time. I loved it, even though I worried that I'm still not interesting enough, that people will not want to read navel-gazing writing exercises. At least my mom can always be counted on to say, "oh HONEY! You're such a good WRITER!"

So now I write when I'm taking a class, and I beat myself up for not writing more often when I'm not taking a class. But I'm doing 2-3 ten minute exercises a week, which is not the daily practice to which I aspire, but is better than nothing. And so I'm navigating trying to figure out what it means to write like me at age 39, not like me at age 20 or like Toni Morrison at age 39.


Sarah lives in Richmond, and she does lots of stuff including writing.