Monday, March 24, 2014

On Having Written

Almost in spite of myself, I've finished my submission to Barbara Jane's new anthology project (I have another week or so to futz with it, as I am wont to do). She's collecting Pinay-penned essays about how and why we write, and even if my piece doesn't ultimately make it in to the book, I'll be first in line for a copy in 2015. I keep thinking of what a difference a book like this would have made to me as a new writer; it'll be a touchstone for a whole generation of Pinays. BJ has also started Fuck Yeah Pinay Lit, a beautiful one-stop spot for all things good and beautiful and painful and crafted.

Anyways, I was having a hard time getting started. I couldn't organize my thoughts; it's like they wouldn't sit still long enough for me to take a picture. Two things happened to get my head in the right place:

1. I got a massage. Not for any particular reason, just because it had been a long time, and I have (like most women my age) a lot of stress points and responsibilities and whatnot. I didn't realize how much...stuff...I was carrying around with me until I lay facedown on the table and the masseuse placed her palm in the middle of my upper back. "You're okay," she said. "Slow down. Breathe."

Oh my god. Who knows?—She probably says it to everyone, but it really was like having a cue ball thrown at my head. At that moment it became so clear to me that for months and months my breathing has been shallow and neglected. That my shoulders have been up around my ears in self-preservation mode. That I was rarely in the moment, but always five, ten, twenty minutes into the future ticking off all the things I needed to do or should do or would fail to do.

So thank you, random masseuse. Thank you for bringing me back into my body.

2. I ran across this single sentence written by Tobias Wolff: "Memory has its own story to tell." Images started to present themselves to me like gifts, and they manifested on the page in small chunks of EXACTLY five lines. This was weird to me, but what could I do? Every single one emerged that way, pre- and post- editing. I worried about it at first, but then just decided to go with it: why force a square peg into a round hole, etc. etc.

Once I got out of my own way, I found the whole process so, so enjoyable. How many times has writing reminded me who I am, where I come from? I ought to be more grateful to / for this thing that I know how to do, and to all the amazing writers / editors who keep creating spaces, projects, potential homes for our work. It's been a dark 12 months, but there's light creeping, creeping, creeping in...