Say yes to your writing every day. Say yes when people ask you to read, when a line comes to mind and desires you to grab a pen, when the time comes to wake up and write and you feel like sleeping or you don’t know if you have anything to say or the right words to say it.
The way you say yes to your writing is always on the page. Pen moving. Fingers can-caning. To think about the act of writing is painful, terrifying at times, boring at times. That thinking has no relation to the experience of writing. It’s easy to dread a certain type of experience–meditation, exercise, writing–that pushes you deep into this moment, now, into a physical being, up against the concrete gestures of the world.
Whistle and chatter of birds outside. Three stone steps climbing from a wide bed of pebbles. Glass doors smudged with dirt stretching along the entire back wall of the one great room made of redwood in my otherwise ordinary ranch house. I am here. A stack of magazines sits on a folding table, one of three. My partner, Angie, is running a kids’ stop-motion camp here the week I am writing this. I’ve gotten up early to say a quiet, active yes to my writing, claim my small, intact corner of this room that’s been turned into a working studio. Outside, a silver bucket hangs from the treehouse window on a rope. Green apples scatter below thick hanging branches of leaves.
I fell in love with this yard. I could not imagine living here. They accepted our offer, even though it was not the highest offer they got, and we moved in. At first I loved it–a quarter acre, fruit trees, a bush that blooms with different flowers all year round. I learned to love the dying parts, the crusts of dirt, the spiders, too. To look closely with my eyes opened not only for what I want to see but for the whole great cycle of life, the scary parts, the ugly parts, the parts I do not understand.
I took this looking to be a form of prayer. Sometimes I did it on my knees, to be right sized below the looming redwood trees in the distance, the stretch of sky going from black to violet to tinged white.
Then I got used to the yard and also neglected it. It changed. I changed. No longer was I a city girl happy with a bit more room Now I saw how others in the area, even in the neighborhood, had more land, better views. I left a little trapped. I started visiting open houses, trolling online for what was for sale.
Rooms that looked spacious and bright in the real estate photographs were cramped and dark when I showed up to see them. Prices had shot up. Mostly, like the Yiddish tale where everyone hangs their troubles on a tree to trade and ends up choosing their own familiar woes again, I kept returning to my house. No other house had everything we had and more.
Then I remembered the days we waited to hear if this house would be ours. How much I wanted it. How I imagined what it would be like to cook in this kitchen, to sit in this great room, to look out at this yard.
Recently, I was sitting with Angie and the kids at an outdoor table at a nice restaurant we don’t go to much. The kids were playing an elaborate card game. The evening, because it was summer, was still bright as if day. I thought, if I were on a first date with this person, and these were her kids, I would long to be part of this family. I would think, this is everything I ever wanted. Sitting at the restaurant, I was aware of all I would not know, the steady weight of the daily effort, sibling fights, spouse foibles, my own persistent flaws–none of which my on-a-date self could even imagine. Still–the fantasy, the desire.
We have to learn to say yes not only to what we want, but to what we have. To learn what it feels like to live in a house, in a family, in a daily writing practice. To say yes not only once, not only in ecstasy or certainty or longing, but each day, through doubt and fear and boredom.
Because what happens next? You write your way to something new or something truer. You make discoveries, go deep. Yes is a miracle that feels so ordinary you could miss it altogether if you don’t look up.