As I sit in front of the fire this chilly April morning, I am struggling with a new dilemma.
Having completed a collection of short stories of mountain living with wildlife in the new millennium, Fire on the Wing, I must now consider how to send it out into the world. The options for a writer in the present day aren’t nearly as appealing as the days of Ray Bradbury or even the early ones of Anne Lamott.
I’m also challenged with the pragmatic concerns of making a living from writing. I know I’m not the first writer to encounter such a gremlin on the creative path.
There must’ve been ways to get one’s writing out into the world before social media, the Kazoo on my shoulder whispers in my ear.
The act of writing for oneself can be therapeutic, cathartic, and even insightful. It’s a way of tuning in to hear the truth of our soul. It’s a tool for the perspicacious to process the goings-on about our mosaic world as efficacious to our emotional and psychological beings. This is just like daily exercise is to our rescue dogs.
Writing is a way to stay aligned with our authentic selves.
It adds meaning and grounding in a world often too noisy, distracted, brutal, or steeped in self-absorption to the extreme point of solipsism, so it could make room for our concerns.
Writing, then, informs our lives in a way uniquely tailored to us. (The irony of intrinsic solipsism in a creative life isn’t lost on this writer.)
And yet, what happens when a writer takes her work out into the larger world?
Julia Cameron, one of my favorite writers from whom I seek guidance when I’m feeling the need for a bit of maternal soothing in my career, speaks of this phase as completing a cycle.
It’s a creative process, I paraphrase, akin to a silversmith making a beautiful spoon—he must send it to the marketplace to be bought and utilized by someone, lest it loses its original purpose of serving to feed a hungry soul.
Perhaps you resonate with such sentiment. I know these words speak deeply to my own creative heart.
And yet, these days, our new reality is prescribing the medium of social media. It is, many say, the only way to become known and invite others to know our work. Those likes and shares and even more joyfully, comments, can be as gratifying as kind words uttered from a close friend when delivered across our screens.
And yet, experiences inform us that social media can be impactful in the most injurious way, for anyone dedicated to a writing life understands that writing is as vulnerable as it is creative. Words uttered across the removed medium of social media can stop a writer in her tracks. Toxic phrases seep into our subconscious as we put pen to paper in creation of our next essay or article, affecting our creativity like a damning judge in a courtroom rendering a guilty verdict.
I knew you couldn’t write! Kazoo hollers. Who the heck are you to even think about such endeavors?
Even more insidious are actual words delivered by a close family member:
“You’d better watch your mouth when you speak of him!” in response to an article that I’d written about our 45th Nightmare-in-Chief.
There were other unkind experiences gleaned from the rescue dog movement through Instagram and Facebook, all of which led me to deactivate and remove such nefarious forms of communication from my life.
As a sensitive, animal-loving, creative empath, I needed to sleep at night.
Which is why it’s even more distressing to feel forced to consider a return to social media in order to keep sending my words out on behalf of rescue dogs, wolves, or the empowerment of women.
Writing this for all to see feels akin to hanging Bhutanese prayer flags to flap and tatter about in high-altitude winds, hoping to release them with a prayer of grace to some divine authority for an answer to come.
All I know for now is that for any dedicated writer with a want in her heart to complete the creative cycle or help raise consciousness for the plight of rescue dogs or the intrinsic value of wolves, this outward step feels as terrifying an undertaking as walking naked through Whole Foods at noon on a Tuesday.
It’s a risk we take every time we hit the “publish” or “send” button, expecting that the 18-year-old guy in his mother’s basement will find us and send words of condemnation, hate, or anger our way.
All of it makes me want to continue to hide away in my barn office, writing privately about the moose in our pasture this springtime, and in the comfortable company of our rescue dogs.
And yet, I feel the pull to move forward as primally as springtime calls for the grass to sprout forward. In so honoring such impulses, I search for a way that feels as congruous with my authentic self as my words are to my own soul when I write my daily morning pages. I’m looking for a medium that serves the purpose of honoring this creative process I was born into, one to which I rededicated myself a dozen years hence, because it is as vital to me as water and oxygen.
I hope there is such a way out there.
For me and for any creative, to stand still in silence with words hidden away in private journals or files on our computers is to believe in the brutal words delivered by those disturbed and disgruntled with the state of affairs in the world.
To walk forward and find new mediums, be they social media or elsewise, is to honor our writing life. And in the process, we honor ourselves.
One authentic, hopefully graceful or expressive word, at a time.