Emerging from the Cave

You have to protect 
your writing time. 
The easiest thing to do on earth is not write. 
—William Goldman

Although bright and airy, my Wilmington cottage has been, for the better part of four months, a kind of “cave” for me. Not a safe and quiet place to hibernate, but a safe and quiet place to generate. Ideas, poems, stories, plays. The writing I’ve found so hard to do elsewhere has been possible to do here. It’s not just the place itself, though that certainly helps. The easy weather, the life bursting forth so abundantly and beautifully all around me. But the writing has also come, I think, because of the way I’ve hunkered down. Narrowed my focus. I’ve put blinders on to limit my vision, diminish distractions, and it’s worked.

Wilmington is full of wonderful opportunities—ones that speak to the deepest parts of me—but I’ve purposely kept myself from pursuing them. There’s a UU church with an inspiring and eloquent minister, with warm and kind and like-minded people. It’s the exact place I want to be part of. Except I want writing more. So, after attending a handful of services, I stopped going. I could see how easily I could get sucked in to the life of that church, how it could consume my time and attention, and though it would give me much—pleasure, community, connection, a sense of belonging, meaningful activities that align with my values of peace, justice, and mercy—it would also lessen the time and attention I needed to write. Thus I chose to stay away, remain in my cave.

The same applies to the vegan community here. It’s active, vibrant, welcoming. There was a time not so long ago when I would have jumped at the opportunity to connect with such a group, delirious for the chance to ally myself with other devoted vegans. Again, I stayed away. Online I read longingly about their monthly potlucks, about the environmental book club led by one of the vegan group’s main organizer, and I desisted. I attended one potluck, saw that it was good, and haven't been back. I've avoided places where I might meet kindred spirits. Downtown there’s a bookstore. It’s the hub of the city's literary scene. The kind of place where, if you mention you’re a writer new in town, you're told you must get to that bookstore right away, you must meet the amazing woman who runs it. It’s what’s done. And I didn’t do it.

Instead, I’ve remained hunkered in the cave. I’ve written. I've allowed myself one regular commitment, a playwrights' group, but that was only because playwriting is so new to me and I wanted a place where I could learn, where my work could get the critique it needs. Otherwise, I’ve intentionally isolated myself. Now and then it hurt, I admit. There were pangs. But as long as the writing was coming, it was worth it.

Last week, though, I stepped out of the cave. I participated in a staged reading outside my regular group, met new writers and actors, and had a great time. On Saturday I finally went downtown to that bookstore for a poetry reading and workshop, and on Sunday I went there again for another workshop. I met the bookstore’s owner and other writers, learned about literary activities going on around town. Then I went home to my cave and thought about what I should do. I’m pleased to have made connections, but I don’t want things to snowball. Don’t want an avalanche of other “stuff” to obliterate the writing. I’m pleased with the way I’ve protected my writing so far. Pleased with how I’ve resisted temptation, picking and choosing a little something here, a little something there, while putting nothing ahead of the writing.

Loneliness is easier when the isolation is self-imposed. But I do see myself making more frequent forays out of the cave. I’d like to share my work. Put it in the spotlight and see if it shines. I’m pleased with what I’ve written. It’s some of the truest work I’ve ever done and it deserves to be known. All our truths deserve to be known. And if I find that I’m losing my focus, I can and will pull back. Back into my cave, my cottage, where the blank page is always waiting to be filled.

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