Start by making a mess

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Everyday Inspiration, Day One: I Write Because…

I often ask myself “why do I try to write?” In this exercise I’m supposed to set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and write non-stop in response to the prompt. This kind of assignment is inviting because I feel the non-stop requirement releases me from any obligation to even try to meet any standard or anything that could be judged.

I like to write my thoughts. Words usually tumble through my mind. One thread leads to another. Except for when I am immersed in music. Then I think music instead of words. I find that an awful lot of people don’t understand that words are not the supreme way of thinking. As a musician, I believe thinking music is a higher form of brain-work; I believe it integrates more of my total being. The other kind of time when words don’t flow is when I am deeply depressed.

But today I am eager to write. The most recurring reason why I don’t write is fear of judgement. I don’t really want the “craft” of my writing to be judged because, as of yet, I don’t really know any craft. If I do anything well, it’s “luck” or just my natural way of thinking. If I do anything badly, sadly that’s just my natural way of thinking! So, I’m not writing for exercising “craft,” although I think I would like to focus on learning how to improve the effectiveness of my communication, someday. For now, I just need to give myself permission to give expression to my voice.

I’m also afraid that I have nothing to say, or that even when I think I have something worth saying that no-one else will think my thoughts merit their notice, let alone time to read, and certainly not their considered response. When anyone does listen to me or reads what I write, and responds, I feel surprised and deeply grateful!

So I guess the reason I write, the reason I even bother to try, is because I need to do this for myself. I need to get my thoughts formed into words, hopefully into sentences! And I need to see them on paper or on the screen. I need to get them out of me, then I need to read them, and then I need to think about them again. I write to help me think. I write to process my thoughts. I write to examine my thoughts.

Sometimes I write to forget. That might sound odd, but sometimes my thoughts are loops that don’t resolve, half-thoughts or worries that trouble me. Writing those half-grown ideas helps me birth them so I can then look at them as something at least somewhat apart from myself. When I can get a feeling or idea or image formed into a sentence, then it’s as though I’ve delivered it out of my head. Then I can look at it. And I can choose to interact with it further or let it go.

Some thoughts that I “birth” are like beloved children because I recognize them as “true,” somehow related to myself. Other thoughts that I push out of me are not like that at all. They represent material I have digested but don’t serve me well; they don’t give life. Those thoughts are worth processing because I can look at them more clearly and objectively when I’ve gotten them out of my head. It’s much easier to dismiss them when I know what they are and that they are not good for me.

Well, I haven’t used up my time yet and I am finding it cumbersome to continue this exercise. I have another seven or eight minutes to go! This is when I’m supposed to just keep putting words down, whatever pops up in my consciousness.

Thank goodness I have some background music on. I can think about “Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis. My appreciation of Miles Davis is somewhat surprising. If I were to list characteristics I identify in his compositional style, I probably wouldn’t be able to say there is much else like his work that I like. Yet I love his music. I love how he puts it all together.

Maybe Miles’ music is a bit like how I think. There are fragments here and there that come to mind. If I play with the fragments, if I really examine them, and relate them, I can come to a bigger, cohesive understanding of something. Jazz often does this. At least the jazz I like. Little motifs are thrown about, explored, turned upside down and backwards, are tried in different keys or varying instrumental timbres. The experimental nature of the play seems and feels sponteneous. But there’s an internal logic that emerges. Eventually the threads come together into a larger work that is profoundly satisfying, partly because one can then recognize that those early fragments had meaning, had purpose.

Beep, beep, beep! 30 minutes has passed!

So now what? Should I go back and edit? I don’t think so. I don’t think I really got into much of anything. But I still achieved a worthy purpose and that is to break through my fear. Who cares if this is worth reading? Well, actually, I do. But for now, I just need to get used to the idea that it’s okay to “grease the gears” even if I initially only make a mess.

Photo by Dave Morgan on

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