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Twitchy, Raw

There’s a twitchy, raw emotional thing that happens in me when I need to write.  I can’t get comfortable in my own skin until I figure out what part of me needs to be scratched, massaged, dug out.

When you have just fallen in love, every love song is about you, your new and radiant union, your view from the mountaintop.

When you’ve just fallen out of love, or someone has fallen out of love with you, then every song is about what you once had, what was, what nobody else seems to know is waiting on the other side of the mountain.

When you want a baby, every woman around you is pregnant, round and growing, or sagging beautifully as she pushes a stroller or wears her baby like an accessory.

When I need to write, everything around me begs to be told.

Everything.  Anything.  Laundry.  Socks.  A slice of lime, dried and drained of its juice. The couple sitting next to me, arguing with a banter that they seem entirely comfortable with, as if it’s their normal tone, as if they’ve forgotten how to sound kind.  The woman sitting across the room reading a book on organic gardening, highlighting voraciously.

And I don’t know what to write about,
and I don’t know what to write,
and I don’t know what wants to be written.

Sometimes I fear I’ve written myself into the widow’s niche, that this place of recovery and sadness and brokenness and healing and anger and joy is all anyone will ever let me say.

What if I want to write happy?  About laundry and limes?

And then what if I want to write darkness the next day, even after I’ve trudged my way through the tunnel and seen light on the other side, even when I’ve shown the world that happy can win – what if darkness gets the day?

But what if I feel like I can’t say it because that lets darkness win again and I’m the girl who beat it once already?  A million times already?

Mostly I just fear that I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Someday, somebody is going to blow the whistle, rigidly tap his clipboard with a pencil, wake me from my reverie and say, “You there – Tricia?  Is that what they call you?  Gig’s up.  You’re no writer.  Step on back, sister.  Let the real artists have your spot at the corner table.”

Recently, I sat over a coffee cup with a true master in the field.  He’s worked with so many writers that he doesn’t really need to anymore; it’s just that it’s nice to have a job.

“How long have you been writing?”

“Well, always, I guess.  But I don’t have any formal training, really.  I just love words.  I took one class in high school, one class in college, and now I’m getting a graduate degree in writing.”

“And is that a good idea, do you think?”

I think I didn’t answer.  I didn’t hear my voice respond.

“I mean, clearly it’s your path.  And that’s okay.  I’m just telling you, I’ve seen many a good writer who has been destroyed by a graduate writing program.  Don’t trade your giftedness for what can be taught.”

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Tricia, you feel free to write whatever you feel compelled to write… limes, laundry, good days or bad days. Life isn’t always one way or another- rarely all good or all bad. I appreciate how you write in your present (present time, I mean). You share your life with us and that endears you to us all the more.

  2. Emily Bronte never went to graduate school, I’ll wager. Nor did Christina Rosetti. Write what you know, whether it’s about the boys or happiness or darkness or theology or the occasional glass of wine.

    I’ll be reading it.

  3. I guess my take on it: you are a writer because you write. If you want to learn more about craft, read a book on craft. Talk to another writing friend. Join a writer’s group. Get beta readers. I don’t see the point in spending the money, personally, but I am in no way criticizing that choice because, like I said, I’m speaking as someone who has never actually been to graduate school.

  4. I sort of share his opinion on graduate programs, but then I know relatively nothing about it, having never been to one. I’ve just heard bad stories. It seems people do it more so they can assuredly say “I’m a writer” rather than focus on their craft. Or to nitpick others and feel better about themselves, perhaps. Writing is writing is writing. And reading, of course.

    It should be said I’ve known fine writers come out of graduate programs, although they’ve all admitted to a few years of complete confusion afterwards.

    Even if you lose your voice — you know, the worst that can happen, and what does that mean anyway? — it’ll come back again. It does.

  5. Oh, you’re such a good writer. When I blog, I read what you’ve written first to get me into the groove if I don’t have a Stephen King book laying around. I hope you don’t mind the comparison. Some of his subjects I cannot bear to touch, but he is such a gifted writer. Since I was much too young to be reading him, I have underlined, starred and highlighted passages that he has written because he so easily expressed what I could not get from my head out onto paper. And so do you! No matter the subject matter, I love my daily ‘coffee’ with your blog. 🙂

  6. amen – life has laundry, limes, and losses – write ’em all! (and I feel ya – my list of topics is getting too long and I don’t know where to start) I love his feedback – not to surrender a gift for that which can be taught…wise words… keep writing, it encourages some of us to get started.

  7. I agree with the previous comments. You write about whatever you want to write about, and I’ll read it. No confining you to a widow’s niche coming from this corner! As for the graduate degree, I can’t imagine that ever causing you to lose your unique voice. You can change your mind at any point anyway, so it’s not set in concrete that once you start you have to finish. You’ll figure out what’s right for you along the way. Most of the time it’s enough just to figure out each day, at least for me!

  8. Please keep writing, writing, writing……so I (and many others) can keep reading, reading, reading.
    Yes, I will read about the sunshine days and the dark days and even the grey ones. And if you go for some other fiction, non-fiction, etc. writing……I’ll read that, too, because you have a way with words. They are so descriptive that mental pictures form easily with the intended emotion. (Well, at lleast I think intended emotions are tapped into.) Some days your blog posts are hilarious. Other days are intensely sad. Others are hopeful. All are human and soooo well written. 🙂

  9. THe beauty of your writing is in the raw emotion AND the limes and laundry. You give us beautiful women permission to be raw one day and happy the next. Go ahead and write whatever God lays on your heart.

  10. Did he cause you to question your decision? Are you praying through it? I’ll be praying for you as well. You definitely have been given a unique gift of expression – would formal learning blunt it?
    Have a wonderful day in your world – which we are so thankful to have you share.

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