Starting Over, Again

Coming out of silence is almost as hard as living in it. In an oppressive environment, I survive by turning inward. It’s a strategy that has served me well and protected me through many challenging situations, but the longer I stay in the safety of isolation, the more difficult words become.

It is uniquely brutal, breaking silence. The stakes and the size of what Needs To Be Said have been growing furiously in the corners of my mind, and it all looms over me now, whispering that I had better get this right.

The only way I’m going to get it right is if I get it done. All I can do, is do.

When I think, and talk, and read, and write, about living a writing life alongside my students, this is the part I leave out. Most people do, I find. Even when honestly exploring the challenges of helping students build independent writing lives, I rarely read about teachers struggling through lapses in their own writing practice. “A line every day, even if it’s terrible,” I’ll hear. And I admire it. But what about when you miss a day, and one day becomes one week, and one week becomes months and your writer’s notebook is a brick of guilt you lug around every day? What about how even when you manage to pry open the cover and confront the discouraging blankness of so many pages, you sit with the pen hovering over the paper and let the white noise roar in the space between your ears, and you write nothing?

This is hard to admit, to talk about, to write about. It is hard to come back to this place. I’m ashamed at how long I’ve left it. I’m afraid I’ll abandon it again. But I think there is value in pushing my way through fear and shame, instead of trying to leave it behind me. And I want to have something to say, some experience to draw on, when I sit with my students before overwhelmingly blank pages and pick up a pen. I want them to know that we can always begin again.

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2 thoughts on “Starting Over, Again

  1. It can be easy to become hard on yourself about writing. I try to tell myself that doing other things is what gives me something to say when I finally DO begin to write again. Maybe it’s a rationalization, but it’s also true.

    • Good to hear from you, Joe! Thanks for reading 🙂

      I think you’re right about how the doing supports the writing, in many ways. I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast “Magic Lessons,” and I just finished one episode in which she says: There is no such thing as wasted time. She goes on to call out the way we writers tend to talk about our pre-writing or not-writing lives as meaningless or wrong, but we are still living our lives at those times, & probably becoming the writers we will be. I’m pretty forgiving of distractions & life getting in the way. The silencing that comes from anxiety, though, is the one I’m referencing here & still struggling to come to terms with.

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