BY Cindy Maguire

I have turned a corner in my writing. I didn’t hear blaring trumpets or see explosions of light before my eyes; it was a soft and subtle sea change. I felt a quiet settling in myself. The various parts of me, the visible – like my skin, my face, my extremities – let go of their tightness, and the invisible- my mind, my spirit, my bones- opened up in acceptance of what it means to write. I can only explain it as a “knowing” that I have taken an important step forward along a path that sometimes seems dark and unlit and sometimes is touched with a golden light, like the sun glinting off the oak leaves in November.

When I rounded the bend, I left behind whining and complaining about lack of time. I have blogged on this site about the time issue; about writing more if I didn’t have a day job or writing more if I had more money. I have often sung the “no time” song. But I complete many tasks and accomplish a lot each day. I am healthy and active. And on the days when I write, even for short stints, I am happy. So, when I choose not to write or make excuses about why I don’t write more often, I am sabotaging my own happiness. That realization woke me up because I have been down that road before.

I spent 26 years in a relationship that should have ended after the first two, when I realized he was an alcoholic and unfaithful. But instead of leaving, I suited up, like a soldier going into battle, and I prepared to fight for my man. I used love as an excuse and as excuses go it’s not a bad one, but it was a narrow, damaging kind of love that left me out. His neediness was like a crater, huge and echoing; it was impossible to fill. I tried. I threw all I had into the void.

When I told him it was over, a quarter century on, I had to get reacquainted with myelf. This didn’t happen instantly; it is a journey I’ve been on for the last three years. I knew I wanted to write but accepting what that entails has been a struggle. I began calling myself a writer before I believed it to be true. I put that coat on and wore it but it felt a few sizes too big for a long while. It fits snugly now.

I am a writer so I need to make time to write. I see now, that it’s a choice. If I choose writing, I will have more happiness in my life. To help myself do this, I have been scheduling writing time in my datebook. It’s easier to keep a commitment that is written on your calendar. Even when writing at home, I block out the time.

I have renewed my affair with my journal as well. I left her for awhile. I stopped writing in the morning when I first awoke, about dream snippets and plans for the day. I didn’t write in my journal on work breaks or when travelling on the TTC. I stopped carrying it with me in my knapsack.

We have reconciled now, and I have rediscovered how fruitful this writing can be. Often I am surprised by what comes to mind when I am out of my comfort zone at home. And the inspiring thing is that the more I write about my day, the more I find to write about. It’s all about paying attention to your surroundings.

The irony about happiness, is that you often don’t recognize it until it’s gone. Even though I knew that writing gave me joy, I fought it. I found ways to avoid writing. But now that I have found my way-turned that corner- I feel a sense of peace.

To be a writer means believing in your ability to create. If you are a writer you are an artist, a creative person. You look at the world in a unique way. I am trying to celebrate that without apology. I still have doubts and days when I question whether there is any point to writing, but I am pushing through and going on.

I read a wonderful poem recently, “Berryman,” by W.S. Merwin. He uses the poem to tell us some of the wise things he learned from fellow poet, John Berryman. I am carrying these lines close to my heart:

“I asked how can you ever be sure/that what you write is really/any good at all and he said you can’t/you can’t you can never be sure/you die without knowing/whether anything you wrote was any good/if you have to be sure don’t write.”

I am sure that writing makes me happy; that is the only sure thing. And it’s enough.

Here are a few other practical things I did to stop the self-sabotage:

  • I revisited a favourite writing guide, one that makes me feel inspired and reassured

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language by Natalie Goldberg. In this book she summarizes her teachings and offers a variety of tips and exercises. There is something here for everyone.

  • I did lots of free writing. I went back to basics and used prompts to write 5-10 minute pieces; my hand never leaving the page:

     -draw “word pictures” of these ordinary things; don’t think about it just write what comes to mind (5 minutes for each one)- pudding, a haircut, a bus stop, fried eggs

     –write about the colour “orange”

     -take a photo, one that has people in it, and write about what you see- go beyond the

                   surface. I chose a photo of my paternal grandmother holding me when I was 3

                    months old; my grandfather is in the picture too, looking straight at the camera

  • I increased my reading- currently on my bedside table- The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver; The Beauty, poems by Jane Hirshfield; Prism International – a Canadian Literary magazine; I am making time to read as well as write

Til next time keep writing.