On Lunch, Gardening… oh, and Writing

Last Wednesday, I had lunch in Valencia with La Belette Rouge. We were introduced by our mutual friend and francophile, the Frogblog. I hadn’t given much thought to the meeting. It was Frog’s idea. I knew of Belette as our paths had crossed on Francophila in December 2007. Belette recommended Eric Maisel’s A Writer’s Paris which I purchased immediately and read with pleasure. I was preparing to leave for Paris at the end of the month for a two-week writing séjour.

At lunch, we enjoyed delightful conversation that eventually centered on writing. Each of us writes, has a nonfiction book or novel in progress (my “shit” novel, as Belette colorfully described hers), writes personal essays, short stories, and blogs. Each of us is, in some way, not writing. The conversation was lively. Even though, at one point, I tuned out to check email on my Blackberry—you’d think I was the Alice in Wonderland white rabbit, late for something important—I had no idea of the profound affect the conversation was having.

It’s all about gardening! “Il faut cultiver notre jardin” (Voltaire). Seeds are sown. They sprout, grow, and, with careful tending, flourish. Without attention, nothing. Weeds take over, choke out the plants, chaos ensues, and eventually everything withers and dies. So it is with writing. I had no idea our luncheon conversation would sow seeds of inspiration that would lead quickly to renewed interest in writing—something I’d left for dead on the shoulder of life’s highway like road-kill I pass, white rabbit like, on the way to the next important whatever.

I’ve read countless books on writing and written scores of Artist’s Way morning pages and Writing Down the Bones timed writing exercises. I’ve written (imo) some good stuff. As a matter of curiosity, I checked my morning pages file. I had written daily morning pages with almost religious conviction since the beginning of February 2002. In September 2004, it all came to an end. I was dealing with my elderly mother’s senile dementia. At the point of near dementia myself, I sought the help of a therapist. Actually, I consulted the therapist for reasons other than my mother’s dementia, but my mother’s condition soon took center stage.

The therapy experience was successful in helping me deal with my mother’s dementia and I am grateful I did it. In the course of the therapy, however, the therapist asked if I keep a journal. “I’m a writer,” I said. “Writers write. Of course I keep a journal.” I talked about my journal, my morning pages practice, my novel, my non-fiction book. The therapist casually observed that it sounded as though the morning pages were used more than anything else to beat myself up and that perhaps they were not the best thing for me to be doing. The seed was sown! I stopped writing morning pages and, soon, I stopped keeping my journal. Now, four-and-a-half years later, I haven’t written a word.

I had no idea that lunch with Belette would change that.

First, “it’s never someone [or something] else’s fault that we’re not writing” (Maisel).

Second, not only do I have a novel to write, I have an important non-fiction book in the works that deals with being gay, being married, being a father, being divorced, and managing a healthy, loving, and fulfilling relationship with my ex-wife and with my two daughters. It’s an important book.

Third, to do this writing, I have to “write hard and clear about what hurts” (Hemingway). I must tend my garden! And, I must never loose sight of the fact that “writers do not write to impart knowledge to others; rather, they write to inform themselves” (Guest).

This morning I wrote the first morning pages in four-and-a-half years!