Writer as Paleontologist

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Sometimes I am frustrated with this season of life, when it’s so difficult to carve out time for writing.  I miss being able to spend whole mornings, entire days, working on a poem or essay.  Losing myself in tinkering with a single line, meditating on the merits of this word over that word.

The high of head-down, charging-forward, steady, focused, creative work.

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Life with little ones feels a series of continuous interruptions: broken sleep, spilt-milk meltdowns, fractured conversations, abandoned shopping carts.

In this season of constant interruption, I’m trying to accept that there is little time for the deep digging, extended times of creativity (and as long as I’m still experiencing sleep deprivation, setting my alarm for 5 a.m. to have time to myself is just not going to happen). I want to embrace this time of unexpected discovery.

I’m marking the places I trip

over, the places something rare

and fascinating juts out of the sands

of my life, taking note and aching

for a chance to come back

later and dig.  Then

I will carefully mine

the sediment for more

bones, steady chipping,

brushing,

seeking,

hoping for a frame

to emerge.

Tedious work, sometimes, but once pieced together, it gives me the chance to do the fun, creative part of fleshing it out, really playing what if with the shape, the contours, colors, and textures.

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For now, I’m working on learning to excavate in smaller increments, on viewing a few moments of digging as worthwhile, on enjoying even five minutes of focusing on a line, a word, an image, on abandoning complete for work-in-progress (and isn’t that what we all are, anyway?)  On noticing.

But mostly, I’m working on trust– trust that this daily collecting of shards and bones will one day come together into something that, if not perfectly whole, will be beautiful.

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*Songwriter Sara Groves was the first person I heard liken her writing process to an archaeological dig.

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