Every time I freewrite, which is to say every time I write without knowing where I’m going, I open the door to discovery. It can be daunting, to be sure. All the voices that prefer certainty and control come clambering at once (what if you don’t know what to say next? what if it doesn’t “go” anywhere? what if it’s a big waste of time?). But I never wind up feeling that time spent writing was wasted time, and the writing always go somewhere, even if it turns out to be a dead-end.
I’m reminded of the summer of 2011. My ex-husband and I were newly navigating the upheaval of having two households and co-parenting young children; I had a full-time job I didn’t love and a relationship with another woman that kept proving unhealthy and unstable.
After housesitting for six months, I was moving back into the house I now owned and was responsible for alone. As the one year mark of my coming out and my first marriage ending came closer, I found myself frequenting a community labyrinth on the grounds of a local Episcopal church.
I close my eyes.
I can still hear the swoosh of tall grasses and wildflowers mingling with the buzz of cicadas and crickets, a summer symphony. From the dusty parking lot, I cross over a tiny footbridge to the plot of land that surrounded the modest labyrinth. The air is humid and heavy; maybe a storm is gathering across the lake and will reach the Vermont side by late afternoon. I am here: Quiet, tentative, committed to walking this circular path to nowhere.
At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal and I even wonder what all the fuss is about. Sure, I know labyrinths have a long history as places of spiritual practice, meditation, and prayer. But knowing something and entering into it in real time, in three-dimensional space, are two entirely different things. Very little in my life during this time is theoretical, and it seems appropriate to be standing at the entrance to this strange circle lined with stones.
I take one step after another, willing myself to move slowly. At one point, a couple of children come racing onto the property, with no regard for creating meaningful experience. For them, just being is meaningful! They do not have to work at it. They tear directly towards the center of the circle, and just as quickly run back to someone I imagine might be a grandparent. Alone once again, I survey the path. It looks like it should be obvious, but it isn’t. I’m surprised when a surge of panic raises in me. I hear a voice in my head striking alarm: You’re doing it wrong!
And it’s then that I “get” it. There is no way to do this wrong. Suddenly, I’m squaring off with the deep-seated fears that have trailed me my whole life: Not knowing what the next step is. Wanting to do a good job. Wanting to get to the center of the labyrinth, where I will promptly receive an A+ and a gold star. Well, will you look at that.
I stay with the panic and it subsides as I continue breathing and taking one step at a time. I marvel at the intricacy of this embodied practice: It looks like I’m moving further away from the center, and I realize I have two choices — I can quit, or I can trust this process. It feels like a metaphor for an a microcosm of everything I’m experiencing in life. To keep going is at turns scary, lonely, exciting, boring, and straightforward. It’s my thinking about it that complicates matters.
Eventually, I reach the center. There is no fanfare. I look out from here, observing how small the labyrinth appears from this perspective, and I know there is not secret to this life. The best I can do is show up, step in, and keep going. I can move through panic and fear, notice beauty and frustration alike, and recognize that the destination will ultimately just be another moment, not an ending.
* * * * *
The same is true of writing. You may be writing a book or you might be writing as a way of paying closer attention to your immediate surroundings and everyday experiences. Either way, the path will sometimes seem confusing and strange, not at all the direct route you were hoping for and most defintiely nothing like what you might have expected when you started out. Insight and discovery occur along the way.
Step into the unknown and see what’s blooming right under your nose: join me for “Blossom,” a 2-week writing group.
The cost is $99 (or you can add on a discounted coaching session) and we’ll meet in a top-secret Facebook group April 16-27. Each morning (with a weekend break), you’ll receive a lovingly crafted prompt in your inbox, inviting you to set a timer for 10 minutes.
Rather than walking the labyrinth each day, you’ll meet the blank page or screen. There’s no way to do it wrong, and there’s no gold star at the end. Instead, there’s something even better: The discovery of words, stories, images, metaphors, and meaning that you’re carrying around and may not even know it! The opportunity to write because you want to, not because you should. And a chance to connect with fellow travelers who will encourage you to keep going.
Cost + Register
Group only: $99
Group + 30-minute coaching session: $149
Group + 60-minute coaching session: $199
Group only $99.00 USD
Group + 30-minute coaching session $149.00 USD
Group + 60-minute coaching session $199.00 USD