Keep Showing Up
I need to have a bath. I hate them, in a way. I call them Filth Soup, but sometimes I just need to soak in burning water and watch my skin turn red and roll off the detritus of days of wear into tiny, soft, grey balls.
If you have been hanging around this website for a while, you might have noticed that I write at length far less than I used to. This is a temporary state brought on by daunting projects, mental illness, and the occasional conviction that I have nothing to say. There was a poem by Theodore Tilton that my mother kept in a binder with a collection of other poetry which she had typed onto white paper. The line that was repeated throughout this poem was Even this shall pass away. I have carried that line with me everywhere for twenty-five years. It reminds me in hard times that there is more than this, and it reminds me in good times to take notice. It tells me now that I will be clean again.
To write things down is to give them away, to turn them out of myself, to grow them their own legs. Not everything wants its own legs. Not everything chooses its own time. That is the thing with being human: we are little gods. We create and make. We decide. I amputate stories from myself, and I don't know how to take responsibility for that. I want them not to be mine once they've been expunged. Here, you can have it. Take it or give it away. It is something else now.
As I have felt a thousand times since I wrote my first story at the age of seven, I was ready to lie down the pen again. The words too often feel bumbling and tiresome. This isn't the fun I thought it would be in 1982 when a witch handed me the gift of magical berries to save me from involuntary time travel and help me find my way home. Getting drunk is not a cure for sobriety. And a hot bath won't save me from getting dirty again.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a TED Talk recently about creativity and inspiration called "A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius", and she cemented my need to continue down this path when she said "Keep showing up".
Keep showing up. The gremlin of genius may be out on vacation, but keep showing up. The words may clumsy and the path unclear, but keep showing up. The inspiration may be inconvenient and difficult to capture, but keep showing up.
My side projects may be difficult, I might need a few long breaks to purify myself in the bathtub, and you might find me drunk on a Friday night moaning about the complication that is my work, but I will keep showing up.
Writing is the only thing that has ever made any sense to me. It is a poor lover, and it doesn't pay the bills, but it does lay out a damn good feast.