“It was the first time I remember our coach had no control over us. It felt so good to scream. […] I could still hear the rain pounding relentlessly on the roof of the rink and I couldn’t help but smile. ”
-Tillie Walden, Spinning
I used to write as a release, a leap, a shout of joy or discovery. I didn’t know where I was: others’ excitements and sadnesses, the threat of how we were hurting the world, the possibilities of a creek and a tree and a friend—all those wrapped around me, and I didn’t know how to stand inside them. I wrote to ground down. I wrote, like Walden, to scream and hear. If I had a little room that was my mind as I usually lived in it, my interpretation of the world as I usually shaped it, then writing was opening a window to feel the wind. Sometimes it was even opening a door: it was an effort toward going out, toward meeting. I’m not the first to use writing that way: Le Guin wrote to be “on all sides exposed, / unfortressed, undefended, / inviolable, vulnerable, alive.”
The funny thing is, in “focusing more on my writing,” I think I’ve largely taken that kind of writing away from myself. I didn’t mean to. Then again, so much of what I write now fits into an intended framework. I’m working on a novel. There are chapters. They go together in certain ways, and I write pieces to perform certain functions. I do something similar with my habits, my work: make the deadlines. Do laundry on Thursdays. Stretch before bed. And that’s good. The tasks need to be done, and an awareness for coherence, for pieces coming together into a whole, might be part of growing up. But I also want to remember that other kind of writing, of being, of breaking open.
Walden’s memoir ends when the strict, controlled world of synchronized skating is shaken open by a thunderstorm. “Our coach had no control over us.” The accepted structure is swept away by something bright and real. I started writing as a way to reach out toward wonder, toward wider and deeper. At the very end of Walden’s memoir, listening to the storm, she smiles. Here is rain, unplanned for, undirected: rain pounding down against my little expectation of “all there is.” Rain washing out to new seeds, rain drumming, so close I can’t help but feel its connection.