Everyone who comes to my home inevitably compliments me on how clean it is. I thank them politely and think “Of course it is because I’m not writing. I clean instead. I’m a cleaning machine.”
The cleanliness of my home is evidence of all the articles and books I should have written, wanted to write, and constantly think about writing. That fire in my belly to freely express myself through the written word, to tell the stories in my head and heart, the ones the voice of inspiration whispers in my ear all day and while I dream at night, has never ceased to burn. Like a constant companion who never leaves me in peace, pressing on my solar plexus and telling me to “Write. Write. Write!”
But I resist. I try to ignore it. I try to think of other things, but it’s always there in the fore of my mind. Whatever else I do I am aware that I am not writing.
Every sudsy dish is a sentence unwritten. Vacuuming a paragraph. Cleaning the bathroom, a chapter. Another closet, another chapter. Every warm, folded basket of laundry is a page in an untitled book. Dusting, an edit.
I’ll find everything that needs doing and do it so I don’t have to write. Every picture that needs straightening, every broken thing-a-ma-jig gets glue, every lost button resewn. The fridge even gets organized. I spend all of my energy not doing the one thing I want to do more than anything else.
So, what is this invisible wall between expression and me that will not allow me to be still and listen? What is this force that compels me to clean, to organize, to micro-manage the contents of my house? Of course, it is fear. Of what I am not sure, but there it is. Stopping me from what I love to do the most.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time I would write long into the night because I had to so I could sleep. Or, I would bring my hot tea to the best view of the sunrise and write until it was high over head because it seemed time stood still and nothing else existed. It would flow then, and I didn’t resist. I wasn’t afraid of success or failure, or having something important to say – I merely expressed what was in me.
I remember that feeling of release and relief when it was all out on the page. That feeling of freedom after doing a good day’s work. The black ink smudged along the length of my left pinky finger a testament to my efforts like a badge of honor. I long for that feeling again and am hyper-aware of each days passing that I don’t write, lamenting that again today I did not break through this fear and resistance. But tomorrow I will surely do it. There are a thousand tomorrows…
No! Today I vow to leave the dust bunnies to multiply unobserved. Today I will face myself, and this invisible foe who aims to paralyze my creativity. Today I choose to defeat fear and take up my mightiest weapon against it: a pen. I begin by writing just three words. The Writing Machine.