If you have to be sure…

“I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t
you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write”
– from Berryman by W.S. Merwin

When I go too long without writing, I get restless. I get so restless that it makes me irritable. More irritable than usual. Something’s off and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Something’s off and it makes me want to eat every piece of chocolate in sight.

“So,” you’re thinking, “then write something”. Yes, if only it were that simple.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am incredibly undisciplined when it comes toΒ  just about everything writing.Β  I complain all the time about how I don’t have time to write, but then when Maggie takes a nap and I’m free, I feel guilty if I write instead of washing dishes or folding laundry. Or, on bad days, I fritter away the time watching TV or reading stupid articles on the internet.

When Atticus gives me time to write, I have nothing to say. Although I suppose that’s not entirely true. At any given time I’ll have three or four ideas for posts swirling about in the old gray matter. Disjointed ideas floating around in my head, waiting to be cobbled together into something worth reading.

What Merwin’s talking about in the poem above is what I experience too. I wonder if anything I write is “really any good”. By my own standards, I think most of my posts are pretty good; I wouldn’t post something I thought was garbage.

Just because I think it’s good, doesn’t mean it is. Ultimately though, this isn’t what keeps me from writing, though it might be what keeps me from writing more controversial posts.

If I’m brutally honest I have to admit that I’m not writing for you. Don’t misunderstand me, I am so glad for the blog friends I have made, and I love all of your comments and feedback dearly. What I mean, is that even if no one read this blog, I would still write it. I would write it because it needs to be written.

I need the release of the written word. I crave the clarity of seeing my thoughts before me in words. I long for the day when I can tell the stories that need to be told, when I can face the pain of my past and put it down in words.

Often, when this blog is silent, it’s because I’m nearly bursting with a story that begs to be told, but I’m too chicken to tell it. The “thin places” I long to share with all of you, the heart that is scarred and redeemed, but with so much left to explore.

There’s hesitation because people do read this blog, and as I learned from recent posts on other blogs, the internet is often an unforgiving place.

The other truth is that I am undisciplined. I have the time to write, if I would only take it. I have a wonderful husband who would allow me this time. I don’t want to write on a schedule. I don’t want to get up an hour earlier to write before breakfast. I want to write when and how it suits me, which of course does not at all suit the life of a wife and mother.

My lack of discipline so often means that good ideas go unexplored, and the stories that are waiting to be told are put off again and again.

Merwin is right, we can never be sure if anything we write is any good, but as anyone with a hear for writing will tell you, to write is in the bones. It simply must be done, even if it is not particularly earth-shattering, or even if it is flat out wrong.

So please bear with me dear friends, as I’m figuring out how to carve out the time for this passion, and learning just how sure I need to be before I can press publish.

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9 thoughts on “If you have to be sure…

  1. I so wish I could be like you… writing just for yourself. I find myself writing just to keep readers interested and in hopes some publisher will find my writings and want me to freelance. HA! Yeah right! It takes a huge toll on me when I “write for others.” Keep doin’ what you’re doin’- I’d love to hear your thoughts. You are a lot braver than me.

  2. I’m with you in that I am ultimately writing for myself. I love what you said about the clarity of seeing your thoughts in words; I think it’s one of the best things about writing. Good luck in figuring out the questions!

  3. Wow. It’s uncanny to me that you would post this today, because I was just having these EXACT same thoughts. For example, right now, my daughter is asleep and I’m not ready for bed yet — a perfect time to write, right? But I’m just tired enough that the words aren’t coming readily. Oh, how I long to write whenever I feel that spark, but just like you said, it doesn’t work that way for a wife and mother. I hope that you are able to find the time that you need. πŸ™‚ And even though I am a wildly devoted reader, I’m glad that you write for yourself.

  4. I have these thoughts at times. Ultimately, I decided I, too, needed to just write for me…to sort out my thoughts, to explore aspects of faith, to document how I feel for my children. I love your blog. πŸ™‚

  5. I love this post! I can really relate to it… oh and if only I were more disciplined… I think if I worked on a book instead of my blogging I could have finished a few already!

  6. Gah. The internet is a very unforgiving place, as I realized last week. But also…it’s good to be challenged. It’s an exercise in grace to admit you’re wrong. Don’t be too afraid to hit publish. I always say a little prayer before I publish a post and ask God to give me the response that He wants me to hear. Sometimes it’s thrilling, sometimes humbling, but I always learn something.

    I’ve missed you too, friend! I’ve been reading every post, just don’t have as much time to comment now as I have in the past. But I’m still here!

  7. I totally agree! I use my blog like a journal, I write how I think. At least that is the goal. It makes it easier to not have many readers then lol. I enjoy you blog keep it up!

  8. I enjoy reading your writing. You put things in print that are good for me to think about. Your writing expands my world. That is the task and purpose of the writer.

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