Let’s see where this goes

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Circular thinking.

I sit down to write here, on the blog, and my mind goes round and round the purpose of this blog. I wonder why people are reading, perhaps, and why they may not be reading. I wonder why I am writing. Do I have something to say? Is my purpose to amuse, to inform, to muse, to form? Do I call out in hopes of a response? Am I launching quirky missives from an insular and isolated place? Am I writing as a writer, as a mother, as a seeker, as a knower? Am I writing to you? Or to me? Or to no one at all, to the ether?

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I’ve come a long way on this path of being a writer. When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer like L.M. Montgomery or Lois Lenski. I wanted to be a writer like Emily of New Moon. I wanted create imaginary romantic worlds of adventure and mystery. As a teen, I was in love with language, and saw in it a violent risky potential. I wanted to write like Michael Ondaatje. I wanted to write barely coherent poetic scenes of romance and mystery and adventure. I didn’t care whether or not my stories or poems made sense, only that they burst with emotion and the fullness of self, perhaps. As an older teen and into my twenties, I wanted to write like Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro. I wanted to craft brilliant sentences that both hid and displayed meaning, sentences that were as rich and big and complex as a whole story, characters whose motives were murky. I wanted to conjure worlds at a tilt from my own, veined and layered and dark.

And so I wrote and I read and I wrote and I read.

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In some fundamental way, I refused to believe that I might not be a writer, someday. I willed myself to continue through years of small steps forward, and crushing rejections. I determined to improve. I determined to learn and to master the craft of storytelling. How to do this particular thing and do it well: how to tell a compelling story, not neglecting plot for style, not neglecting sentence structure for pace. I got better.

I got to where I am right now, here, sitting before this laptop, wondering, wondering. Do I still want to be a writer, so fiercely, so absolutely, so determinedly? Who do I wish to write like, now? Or, more importantly, perhaps, than I originally understood: what stories do I long to tell? And if I have no story that I long to tell, why craft the structure, why lovingly build the sentences? If the house is empty? (Is the house empty?)

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Engagement is a key word of our era. That seems to me the purpose of social media. Anyone who wishes to earn attention, to market her work, must learn to engage with her audience, to maintain a call-and-response relationship, the bigger the better. It comes naturally to some, and less naturally to others. I put myself in the latter camp. Yet this blog is a form of engagement, whether or not I choose to see it that way. And when I recognize this and admit it, I become more and more uncomfortable as purveyor and publisher of posts. I cannot understand what I am doing, nor what my purpose may be. Is it, as originally intended when I started the blog in 2008, to narrate my every day life, to keep it in some form, and if so, for whom? For my children? For myself when I am older? Am I marketing my books? Practicing my craft? Indulging in cheap philosophy? Is this a publicly-kept journal?

Could I live without engagement? This specific form of engagement? (Silly question. Of course I could.)

Less, is the message that’s been coming my way. Not more, more, more, but less, less, less. For so long, I’ve fought to become more, to achieve more, to do more. I’ve worked toward big, specific goals and dreams. Now I’m confronted with this strange glimpse of myself, something I was afraid to see: I see that I will never write as wonderfully as I’d hoped to. I’m not possessed of a special gift. I’m a hard-working woman, that’s all, and I had a dream.

I’ve written that in the past tense without even noticing: and I had a dream. Strange. Isn’t it? Maybe the dream is shifting, deepening, altering course, becoming something else.

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What now? What next?

Now: Life is strangely lovely at present. It is unexpectedly wonderful to hear less, less, less calling me. I feel myself relaxing into moments in a way that feels almost unfamiliar, unknown. I feel the pace changing. I feel myself at peace with what I have, right now.

Next? Being a writer isn’t something you quit. Writing is how I process the world around me; I’d be impaired without it. I continue to write, as always, but right now it’s a form of listening; without shape. I think my purpose is to listen, right now. I feel quiet. I feel a great deal of affection–of love–for those around me. The days are full, vivid, layered and veined and rich. I feel human. I feel flawed. I can’t think of anything I need or long for or crave, not even direction, right now. I feel present.

What I don’t feel is at an end with this blog. But I want to be honest about my ambivalence toward its purpose, and my use of it, at present. Thank you for listening.

xo, Carrie

PS Photos are from this past weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s farm, taken after the sun went down, on the longest day of the year. Homework got burned, marshmallows got roasted and mushed between graham crackers, and the mosquitos almost won. Almost.

See the child
A list of interruptions

8 Comments

  1. I feel the same way about blogging whenever I catch myself thinking about the writing of posts rather than simply writing them. It’s a strange activity, in a way — one that feels intensely personal, yet is often done for sharing publicly. I, too, have sometimes felt confused about why, and for whom, I’m writing. I like to tell myself that it doesn’t really matter. I think the beauty of a blog is that it can be whatever the writer wishes it to be; it can meander through different stages and purposes much like humans do in life, and the people who want or need to read whatever it is you’ve written will find you.

    I am glad you feel at peace with where you are right now in your life — that’s a very satisfying feeling. You should give yourself more credit, though, for how wonderfully you write. I often find myself wanting to be a writer like you are — I find your life and your work very inspiring.

    I am also in awe (and just a little envious) of your ability to manage family weekends away during the absolutely crazy month of June!! It looks like you’ve all been having a fantastic time. 🙂

    Reply
    • We’ve had several very fun getaways already this summer, and I’m feeling very lucky for that, even if it means no one has vacuumed for several weeks …

      Thanks also for your kind words.

      Reply
  2. One of my favourite quotes (which is of course no help at all) from Thomas Mann: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

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    • I must admit this quote doesn’t ring a bell for me. I find writing easy! Almost too easy sometimes. My personal difficulty is being a writer — defining what that means and how to manage or shift the expectations, mine and others. I plan to blog more about this.

      Reply
  3. Oh Carrie. This post was touching and so highly relatable.
    I love Montgomery, Munro, and Snyder. You three are all Canadian literary idols to me. I love reading your blog, to check back on a weekly basis, to see what news insights and stories you have been willing to share with eager readers like myself.
    Thank you..
    Just…thank you. The dream of being a writer is such a confusing one, but I keep dreaming thanks to insightful women such as yourself.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Kerry. It is a complicated relationship between writer and reader, but the words are at the heart of it, and words and stories have always moved me, filled me, interested me, and inspired me. Maybe that’s the most important thing to keep in mind as I continue to wrestle with being a writer.

      Reply
  4. Yesterday I made the trek to the Bayfield Writer’s Festival because words inspire and comfort me, because I could think of nothing better for my spirit than to listen to several authors reading from their works, and in part because you were part of the line up. I wanted to tell you in person how much I appreciate your blog and look forward to your posts but did not have the opportunity. (I am envious of the ease with which you write your blog with a timer no less!) As you began reading from Girl Runner, scenes from the book came back to me and I marveled again at the beauty of words, the words you wrote. We don’t know where our words will go and who or how they will touch someone. And certainly not if they are not written. Please blog (and write) on.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this comment, Johanna. I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet on Saturday. It felt like a really special afternoon, and I was engrossed in the stories of all the other writers — and moved, and yes, their words did fill my spirit. It felt easy to read into such a welcoming and open space, and I was glad to get to be there. No, I don’t know where my words will go and who they might touch, and you are absolutely right, the only sure thing is that if unwritten and/or unshared, the words won’t reach anyone. I’m glad to have the opportunity to reach out. Thank you for your response.

      Reply

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