We moved houses last year. My husband and I had last moved in 2003, so it was a pretty major endeavor. I spent all of October sorting and winnowing through our stuff, giving away things that still had use and discarding or recycling things that did not. I spent all of November finishing up this task and also starting to pack the things we had decided to keep. The last day of November, movers arrived at our old house and spent the day lugging all our boxes and furniture onto two trucks and then into our new house. December first found us in our new house, thankful, happy, and also more than a little dazed.
Throughout all this time, I didn’t write, not really. I wrote emails to friends, posts to friends on social media, but no poems or essays or even journal entries. It felt like a relief to take a break. It felt freeing to focus on something else instead, on the massive project of getting us moved into our lovely new home. And then once we were in the new house, there was the massive project of settling and unpacking. I enjoyed that too. When that was done, it was almost Christmas. I told myself I’d get back to my writing practice in January.
January came, and I did not get back to writing. February came. Then March. I wasn’t panicking exactly. I know myself by now, at the age of nearly-50. I always come back to writing. I take breaks, and then I return. It is the way we work, writing and I. But I did know that my writing break needed to end soon. Enough.
April first began, and I surprised myself by writing a poem. Just a rough draft of a poem, an idea of a poem, but a poem. I thought maybe I’d try the April poem a day thing. So the next day I wrote another poem, and the day after that another. The days kept passing by and I kept writing poems, and I wrote something else too.
In the new year, I was recruited to join my Unitarian Universalist church’s Radical Generosity committee and to do most of the writing for that committee as it prepared its yearly pledge campaign. I was a little apprehensive about the request. That is NOT the kind of writing that I generally do. But I thought it might be good to stretch myself, and to be of service, so I said yes. My first assignment for the committee was to write a series of 400 word profiles of church members who are generous with their volunteer time. This would require interviewing people, and then writing up what I’d found. I’d never interviewed someone before, or written a profile, and I wasn’t sure I could, really. I’m an introvert. Talking to people I don’t know takes a lot of anxious energy.
But I tried it anyway. I sent out a couple emails to church volunteers, and started corresponding with them. On Tuesday, I spoke to one of them on the phone. It was a good conversation, interesting and pleasant, and then towards the end I fumbled with my words and said something a little bit vulnerable, and in turn they responded with their most honest and vulnerable reply yet. I knew it when I heard it — this was my hook. As soon as we ended our phone call, I wrote. I wrote in that trance that is so satisfying and so difficult at times to achieve. By the end of it, I had a 500 word profile which I felt really good about. I then spent some satisfying time cutting and winnowing my words until I had just below 400 of them. And there it was, my first profile. I looked at it, felt proud, and then drafted my poem for the day.
Today, Thursday, I did some final revisions to the profile and then emailed it off to our church’s monthly newsletter. Then I drafted a poem, my 7th so far this month. I feel comfortable saying that I’m writing again. My break is over. It was a good break, a break worth taking. But now it is good to be back to the page.