Sometimes I feel like I need to drink a bottle whiskey every day or be addicted to crack in order to be a good writer.
What could some white girl from the hills have to say about living and dying that isn’t going to make the world roll its eyes?
Sometimes this blog makes me wanna puke a little. My professors would tell me that I’m not getting to the root of it, that I’m thinking too much, trying to control the words. They would say that your writing is not something that you construct and mold like a piece of clay, but something that first comes out of you naturally, and it is not until then that you start the process of cleaning up the mess you made. But your words aren’t born all neat and tidy, they come into the world screaming their heads off and wondering what the hell this place is. They are filled completely with life and don’t give any damns. And then, you leave it all there on the page and don’t apologize for it. You especially can’t be afraid of it. You let it breathe. Because the only thing more painful than keeping it all in is letting your words out and then suffocating them, dousing the whole thing with water.
I don’t remember where or when I read this and who said it, but it was a quote that went something like, we write to discover that which we know but do not want to know. Sounds pretty scary, huh? I didn’t used to be afraid of that kind of stuff, you know, when I was nine years old or so.
“This is all about a loss of control. This is what falling in love is, too: a loss of control. Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It’s the best way to write. To live, too.”
Natalie Goldberg asks that of us in her book about living the writer’s life.
I remember times when I have written in this manner, times when I have lived this way.
I was maybe nine. I don’t remember where we were vacationing, somewhere in the mountains, but I had begged my parents to let me go horseback riding. The next day we were at the stables where they offered guided group trail rides. Despite riding horses whenever we went up to my grandparents’ ranch, I barely knew how to ride. The horses at the ranch were tame, old, you could ride them bareback and be just fine. I climbed the fence to get on top of my horse, and as I got settled into the saddle I noticed I was by far the youngest person in the group.
The first half of the ride was mellow, I grew to like the other people in the group, even though I hadn’t said a word to anyone beside my horse, I just observed and felt calm around them. I kept running my hand along my horses mane, telling him how good of a boy he was being. Eventually the guide stopped before a big, open section of trail. Okay everyone, she said. I still remember the thick braid that ran down her spine. We’re going to work up to a full gallop right here. Is that okay with everyone?
I remember that the only reason I felt comfortable going on that trail ride without my parents was because it was described as a Beginner Trail Ride, without any galloping, maybe just a light canter. I asked again when I got there, we aren’t going to go too fast, right?
I raised my hand. I was somewhere near the back. I’m not okay with galloping, I said. The voice came out louder than I thought it would have.
Okay, the guide said. No problem. It’s such a nice day that we might as well take our time anyway. She turned her horse around and the group continued its mellow march.
God, I loved myself in that moment. I didn’t care what the other people in the group thought of me, I didn’t wait for anyone else to raise their hand first, I didn’t talk a bunch of shit to myself afterwards. I didn’t even really think about it too much.
Seventh grade. The paper had turned soft and dimpled where it was pressed between my clammy fingertips. A throat that kept swallowing, a free falling stomach. We all were assigned to write a creative story, fictional, and it was my turn to read what I had written. I don’t remember the story exactly, but it was something about how a family of foxes survived a harsh winter. I got through most of it without passing out, and then read a section about how the foxes lived on forever because they had more babies, and their babies had babies and so on. To some of the boys in my class, the fact that I had written about babies, or having babies, was absolutely hilarious. They started to laugh. The teacher quieted them down but my voice got quieter and quieter as I finished reading my story. I wanted to go home sick for the rest of the day. How could I have written that, I thought to myself.
And as we get older, doesn’t it just get worse? Doesn’t it get so bad that we stop writing stories about baby-making foxes all together?
There are so many things in our world that try to bridle our wild mind, that tell us it’s ridiculous, not good enough, in need of healing, broken, weird, scary, lame, obnoxious, shy, too this, too that. So we try to shut if off. But what we do not understand is that our wild mind does not have an on/off switch, it is always on, and if we deny it air it will claw and fight like hell to voice itself. If we deny it for too long, that’s when we get depressed or mean.
And all it really comes down to is an acceptance of what we are right now, in this moment, hell–it’s Thanksgiving so I’ll even go as far as to say that it’s about having gratitude for what we are right now. And then, we make decisions and move through this life rooted in this moment, with gratitude for it. Who cares if it’s all messed up? Who made up these rules about what it is to be acceptable? If whoever did make up those rules about the “norm” is reading this right now, with all due respect, I must say that your ideas are incredibly boring and lame.
We have no control over our wild minds. I have no control, and you have no control. Sorry for your loss.
And when I say wild mind, I do not mean our thinking, monkey minds, I mean deeper than that, the place that makes us raise our hand when asked if everyone is okay with galloping, the place where art comes from, the place that is being used when we dance in our living rooms and sing in our cars, the place that makes us quiet and observant when we feel quiet and observant, and loud and boisterous when we feel loud and boisterous. This place does not care about the judgement that we are bound to incur from all the other people who are leading with their thinking minds and not their wild minds. This place loves everyone, and it is perfectly okay with this moment right now, in fact it is grateful for this moment, however damaged your thinking mind has deemed it to be.
Happy Thanksgiving, thank you so much for reading.