Vince Reidsma started out as just my friend Martha’s dad, the guy who kept the pool clean so we could swim all summer. Later, when I was in my teens, he was the guy from church who spent a lot of time talking to my parents as their marriage was unraveling. More than 30 years later, as one of my mom’s best friends, he has re-entered my life wearing a new hat: seasoned writer.
This poem was written by my friend Vince Reidsma, who has been penning rhymes for the Holland Sentinel every week for 27 years!
I have terrible writer’s block today. I’m talking the worst. I’ve stared out the window, snacked on stale peanuts, made a cup of tea and let it get cold while I paced around, yelled in frustration (just once), done two loads of laundry, and bought a pair of boots online.
All I want to do is write about being thankful. Why is it so hard? I think it’s not because I have nothing to say, but because there’s too much and no easy place to start.
It was my first time facing a group of millennials and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was serving as a panelist at the Indiana University Media School Career Day. As an alumna with a journalism degree from IU, I was there to talk about writing careers.
How would I relate to a generation steeped in technology and global influences when my college memories included snail mail, interviews conducted on landlines, an electric typewriter, and learning to “burn” and “dodge” photos in a darkroom?
I was lying face down in a dimly lit room, listening to the sounds of a harpsichord or sitar or something equally soothing, willing myself to be soothed. I’d been looking forward to this massage all week. I’d finally convinced myself that I deserved it and that I would not, under any circumstances, regret the expense. It wasn’t regret that followed me into the room, but a sticky cloud of anxiety.
Why did I drink coffee before my appointment? And why, why, why did I get on Facebook? I should have known better than to start my day wading through negative stories.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been a helicopter mom. I’ve never stayed up later than my kid to put a few “finishing touches” on her science project. I don’t schedule meetings with teachers or principals or send carefully worded “concerned” texts to mothers of my kids’ friends. I don’t have tracking devices on their phones.
For years I’ve been cool. I’ve been laid back. Except when one of my kids puts a piece of writing in front of me. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m reaching for a red pen. The itch to edit or tease something sublime from each sentence is simply too great to resist. I MUST put my mark on it.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
On a recent drive to Michigan, I passed the time by listening to author Elizabeth Gilbert being interviewed on the podcast “On Being.” She was talking about the creative process and said the same words that I’ve read on the back cover of her new book, Big Magic:
“The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”
I admit, I teared up.
Do you ever wonder why asking “How are you?” continues to be such a common greeting? It’s like opening a door to a shadowy room. You never know what will come out. You’ll learn about aches and pains, work stress, annoying family members, or sometimes just get slimed with general ennui.
And being the one asked is just as fraught. You want to be positive, but the urge to trot out your woes is so strong. Attentive ears can be hard to come by, and if you’re being honest….
I’m not proud of the fact that there are unwashed dishes in my sink, a pile of unfolded laundry on my bed, or a family of dust bunnies under my dresser. But I’m writing. And when my writing time increases, my usually high cleaning standards take a dramatic fall.
My dirty little secret is that, in order to write the way I want to, I have to allow myself to be a little slovenly. I have to accept that the blocks of time spent staring out the window, taking meandering walks, even dumping clean clothes on the bed, becoming distracted, and wandering away are part of my creative process.