Writing Did Not Save Me

Three years ago I was snowed in at at Myrtle Beach. Sound great, right? I was there to give a 30-minute talk to a group of travel professionals, and while there, some freak ice storm hit the region. So I ended up inside this hotel for a few days, with way too much time on my hands. 

I was unhappy, and couldn't figure out why. More importantly, why did I feel so empty? Maybe I could write it away? There were deep knots in my shoulders as I hunched over the computer, editing stories by day and staring at a screen at night. 

So I re-read a bunch of Cheryl Strayed and wrote this down on an index card and felt like I'd had an epiphany of some sorts at the hotel bar. (Because positive epiphanies always happen at hotel bars, and particularly ones where you talk with a man dressed like a pirate to sell Myrtle Beach mini golf.) 

I had not.

This is not bad writing advice. However, from where I sit now, I realize the fallacy of it for me.

I could never write "blazingly good" back then. I could write well. I could make magazines. I could craft a witty Facebook status update. But I could never have the patience to get my ass on the floor because it was usually already there, recovering from self-made chaos. 

Back then, everything happened "to" me. I was the victim in her own story, trying to write my way out. On days where I was overwhelmed with handling life, I did not ask for help. I checked out. This generally did not involve writing. This did involve distracting myself. Chardonnay, funny stories, chaos. It found me, and I found it. 

My God, was that boring.

Things are so much more still now. I do keep index cards with favorite writing quotes in my home office. They're tacked to a bulletin board. But so is another one, the one at the top of the board. It  just says, "God, show me what to do next."

This is called getting out of your own way. 

As I approach a year of sobriety (not there yet, but can see the light from the shore), I almost don't recognize the girl who wrote that Cheryl Strayed quote on an index card. I do remember that she thought that she thought her writing might be her salvation. Moreover, she thought that she could will herself to change, that if she just got her ass on the floor she could figure things out. The work harder, write harder, look at-this-shining-story narrative.


Writing has given me many things. A career and the way I move through the world. I few years ago I would have added: "my life" as the next sentence. But not now. Writing did not save me. Not all of the blazingly good or blazingly mediocre words. 

What did? Do you want to guess?

Here's a clue: it started when I stopped running. It always does. 

It started when I stopped staring at index cards with inspirational quotes for all of my meaning. 

But that isn't enough to save me. I'm not enough to save me.

Grace did. I just had to show up. 

I'm not sure what to write about today.  I don't know what's next. And I sure as hell I don't know what "blazingly good" is anymore. But I'm here. I got my ass onto the floor to do the real work, held and supported by a force field of love. 

All the rest of the stories? They're just a bonus.