Staying The Course
Originally Posted: September 9, 2013
It is September already, the air crisp with approaching fall, the leaves fluttering and starting, just barely, to turn. The light in my studio has that thick golden quality as I show up this morning to write for the first time in days. I am full of fear. I glance at my sleeping dog beside me, wishing I had her level of trust:that things will be ok, that the writing will come, that the story will find its way. I wish I could trust the gifts I’ve been given, the path I’m on. This terror I feel reminds me of being out in the woods near Shelburne Falls last spring, hiking on a semi-familiar trail and suddenly thinking I’d taken a wrong turn because there didn’t seem to be any trail markers.
It was early May, a chill in the air just like now. The sun was sinking lower in the western sky and suddenly I became convinced that I was lost–though I have an innate sense of direction. I was lost. I must have forgotten the way: I felt it with every beat of my pounding heart, with every truncated breath. My body flooded with fear. And in my heightened adrenaline state, I probably was momentarily at risk: I was stumbling through the woods too fast, stubbing my toes on rocks and hyperventilating over worst case scenarios—how I’d still be out here when the sky turned black; how I’d fall over a cliff; how I’d have to make a bed in the leaves with no water and not enough clothes… Or worse, how they’d find me a few days hence, dehydrated or half-eaten by wolves. I went on like this for an embarrassingly long time, inwardly hysterical, cursing myself for hiking alone at dusk without a cell phone, even praying to some old chimera of a childhood god. And then, just as suddenly as I’d lost my way, I recognized a familiar stream; I noticed the trees thinning and the light increasing ahead, where I remembered a clearing. I felt both relieved and foolish, realizing that I’d been fine all along, that my body—or something deeper–had known the way, had understood how to complete the journey by going toward the light.
This is just how it feels to be writing a book, to find yourself suddenly in the dense undergrowth of the story’s middle, without trail markers or Google Map. It’s also how it feels to be in the midst of an artist’s life, a writer’s life: there are few sign posts. No easy directions. Certainly no guarantees that what you are doing makes sense or that it will pay next month’s mortgage. Still, you keep going. You stay the course. Something in you knows how to find the clearing, and it is not your conscious mind. Something in you knows north from south, and it is definitely not your fear. Your fear will only tell you to stop, or turn back, when really the only way out isthrough. The only thing to do is take the next step, and the next, pay attention to the light, and be ready for the clearing up ahead—that view that will take your breath away. Posted by: Dori