Writing doesn’t have to be so complicated.
It can just be me, lying here on a hammock beside the water, surrounded by sailboats. The sound of fish jumping. Clouds floating lazily across a blue sky. It can be this longleaf pine towering above me, tall and gangly, full of pine cones that threaten to drop on my head. This vine crawling up the trunk, circling round and round, its orange flowers lit up by the sun.
I don’t have to find the perfect metaphor. I don’t have to figure anything out. I can write about the lizards that run past my feet on the deck on the way to the lounge. The toads that live beside the downspout in the parking lot and come out every evening to hop under the stars. The smooth green treefrog that camps in the box of pool toys. How it adhered to the side of an inner tube and found itself unexpectedly thrown into the pool. It leaping through the water, in search of a quick escape. Me screaming in surprise.
I can write about how I got up at 7 two days ago, to take a walk before the day heated up. How I felt so satisfied by this uncharacteristic achievement, and promised myself I would do it every day this week. Or about how the next day, I simply couldn’t bear to get out of bed when the alarm went off at 7. So I stayed inside, deliciously half-asleep, thinking: Screw the walk.
It can be me complaining about the unrelenting, unbearable heat, the still air, the harsh sun in a blank sky. And then the next moment a storm is rolling in, lightning is threading through the afternoon sky. Before I know it I am lying in this hammock, the crickets singing a gentle lullaby, a few glorious raindrops and a soft breeze cooling my skin.
I can record these indescribable ripples passing across the brown water, a moving mosaic of shadow and light. Or the sweet relief of a cloud passing in front of the sun. The distant cry of a bird. The empty river stretching out to the horizon. The messy puzzle of lines and sails and pedestal lights astride weathered gray docks. Or I can write about the hungry rumble of my stomach, and how I can’t force myself to leave this hammock and gather the supplies for lunch.
I can write about writing — even though I tell myself that I am not a real writer until I start writing about something other than writing, or my failure to write. But if writing about writing is what brings me to the page, I will take it.
As Natalie Goldberg writes in her lovely guide, “Writing Down the Bones”:
All my writing friends are obsessed with writing… We’re always thinking we should be writing no matter what else we might be doing. It’s not fun.
Well, if that’s the definition of a writer, than I am one for sure. Now it’s time I start taking this advice:
There is freedom in being a writer and writing. It is fulfilling your function. I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.