A few years ago a funny thing happened: I stopped writing for myself. I became so engaged in helping other people write and in making a living that I neglected the one craft that has helped me breathe easier in our world.
I never stopped looking at things and wondering about them, but I stopped building homes for my experiences. I turned my face away from the part of me that has always known the way forward, or at least knew how to show up and explore. One afternoon I was sitting around my kitchen table with some friends. We were chatting about our goals for the new year and when the question came around to me, I became hot and flushed and teary-eyed and said, "I need to be writing! I forgot I am a writer!"
Their beautiful eyes looked at me and could see that I was visibly distressed. "Write!" they said. "You're turning red!"
After they left, I went into my bedroom and walked around. I remembered reading something Earnest Hemingway said: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
Just write one true sentence today, I said kindly to myself. Just one. And then tomorrow, write another.
This seemed like a manageable way to get back into it. Word by word. Handwritten. I held my favorite pen and took out a smooth piece of fresh white paper.
The physical act of moving my pen across paper for no other reason than to write a beautiful sentence for myself felt luxurious and magical. How had I let this feeling go for so long?
The howling dogs of my intellect showed up, as they will do, and they barked, "You should be working! You should be learning! This poetry will get you nowhere!"
And then my heart stood up and said, "You're fierce. I hear you, but I am fiercer. Go lay down and give me space to breathe." And breathe I did. From that afternoon forward I continued writing for myself and I have not stopped. The world broke open to me again. Layers of myself that had been dormant began stretching their brave arms, shaking the dust off their shoulders, straightening their spines. Finally, they sighed. Finally.
When you are a creator and you are not creating, there is a certain longing to your days. There is a life there below the surface that you know is turning and turning but it is too deep and you are too busy to get involved. But you long for it and you know it's there. You have a lot of tidy and reasonable excuses to not pay attention to the underwater life, but viscerally you know that this life is what gives you the goods in the first place. It's what makes all the other work rich and rewarding and sometimes just plain survivable.
If you are a writer who is not writing, a baker who is not baking, a painter who does not paint, I want to tell you this: beginning again is the hardest part.
Beginning again doesn't need to be complicated or grand. Start small. One sentence a day completely reoriented my life. It became a compass. This daily sentence slowly opened my eyes in a way that wasn't overwhelming but rather felt nourishing, familiar, and good. Once you carve out just a few quiet moments to say what your soul came here to say, those moments may turn into hours and then quite possibly into days. Suddenly you will understand that you are doing what you came here to do. Creating what you were created for. This joy will move into other parts of your life and your livelihood will be richer for having spent time exploring this essential part of who you are.