In Your Own Words: Lyla Willingham Lindquist – Unread

un·read – adjective \-ˈred\

: not read;  left unexamined
: lacking the experience or the benefits of reading

__________

One day, I broke up with my blog. I stuck a letter to the brown marbled wall with Scotch tape, closing out a relationship that had lasted more than four years with the words, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Today, cobwebs hang about the place like Miss Havisham’s; unpublished drafts sit like a crumbling three-tiered cake still waiting for the wedding guests to come. A handful of people pass through each day, but the place sits empty, maybe even a little haunted, like the abandoned outbuildings one might see on a rural highway near my home.

Looking back sixteen months later, I wouldn’t change a thing, except perhaps formalizing the break sooner. It was evident that I had stopped writing there months earlier, long before the call for writers to stop blogging. But I hadn’t yet said it out loud.

I’ve been asked over the past year why I stopped. The simplest answer is capacity. A person is given only a certain amount of time each day, and I had run out of it. But more than time, I believe a writer is only given so much writing (if he expects it to be of any depth and quality), and I was writing regularly in another venue.

Perhaps the better question in understanding why I stopped is to ask why I kept a blog in the first place.

I blogged because I wanted to write. That’s why I started the blog in 2008: very simply, I wanted to write. Later, I was very happy for Tweetspeak Poetry and others to get my best work, and blogging was no longer my only outlet.

I blogged because it kept me connected to friends. Relationships were an unexpected byproduct of blogging, and to a point, I wrote to maintain them. There’s an underside to that which is its own article, but for now, simply translate this practice into off-line relationships. A guy sits down in a coffee shop and delivers a five-minute story or lesson to his friends, who are lined up in a half-circle around him. When his story is done, they each offer a thoughtful response, or a “Wow. Just wow,” and then move to the next table, where a woman is just finishing up another story. Whatever your emotional capacity, the relationships that endure are those that reach outside the comment box to the flesh and the phone and other deeper means of interaction.

Most pointedly, I blogged because I had something to prove. And then one day, I didn’t. My writing asked hard questions because they were hard, and I crafted deep reflective pieces because they were deep, in order to prove myself to some amorphous onlooker. The day I decided I didn’t have anything to prove, I no longer had anything to say on my blog.

pages

Writers, I’ve observed, want people to be taken by our words. We want our words to ignite a mild case of indigestion, just enough to wake a guy at 3 am to prop his pillows a little more upright, straightening his esophagus against the reflux induced by our words like a spicy plate of well-prepared General Tso’s chicken.

We want a reader to take our words into her mouth, roll them around on her tongue like she might knot a cherry stem, bounce them from one taut cheek to the other with a puff of air. We want them to fill another like chicken noodle soup on a chilly fall Sunday or double chocolate chunk fudge ice cream on a lonely Friday night.

But when the cherry stem’s been tied, then what? We need another cherry. And another. And another. The exhilaration of pressing the Publish button can have us popping out cherry after bright red cherry, the oft-discarded garnish on a fluffy dessert, forgetting that ripened Bing cherries, if gathered and slow-baked, can make for a rich, satisfying cobbler.

Just over a year ago, in the space created by not blogging, I began writing longhand one morning a week for two or three hours at a time. A stack of lined pages an inch thick starts like this: “I don’t remember being born. Still, I’m pretty sure I was.” What follows is sentence after sentence beginning with two simple words: “I remember.”

The writing is awful; the exploration, deep and necessary. The words were not written to be read. They were written to be written. They may be among the most important words I’ve ever put to paper, yet they sit unread in a big white envelope.

After several weeks, there seemed to be nothing left to remember. (At least not for now.) So I stopped.

Instead, I spend those mornings writing stories, developing characters, finding truth in an exploration of fiction. One day, it too will stop. When it does, there might be something I could publish. But even if there is, I might not want to. The work for me, for now, is to write.

Want to find your deepest truth?

Don’t waste your most important writing. Write the work that won’t be read.

__________

WORD COUNT: 845

Lindquist 200x200

Lyla Willingham Lindquist is a claims adjuster, helping people and insurance companies make sense of loss. When not crunching numbers or scaling small buildings, LW is an editor at Tweetspeak Poetry and designs websites at The Willingham Enterprise. Connect on Twitter at @lwlindquist.


In Your Own Words

An important part of bringing words to life is encouraging other writers with their words. In this regular feature, I invite other writers to write about one word that captures where they are in life at that moment, much like my own #wordoftheweek writing discipline. What is your one word?


Photos by Lyla Willingham Lindquist, used with permission.

Lyla Lindquist

  • Marilyn Yocum ,

    “In the space created by not blogging” (love that phrase) I am into a personal project that is probably the most important writing of my life. It was a hard break-up, but the right one FOR ME for this season. I hope all my blogging friends don’t suddenly stop, though, as I enjoy reading them.

    This is an excellent, thought-provoking post. All writers should stop and assess why they are writing what they are writing from time to time, and adjust as necessary.

    • LW Lindquist ,

      What we’re doing does take space, doesn’t it? Whether it’s blogging, another writing project, or any other aspect of life. And we have to respect the capacity we have, and the demands of those things.

      I think the idea of seasons is really important for us to recognize as well, as deciding to step back from one thing now doesn’t mean it’s what we’ll do forever. That can make the hard decisions as little easier to live with. As you say, “adjust as necessary.”

    • Dolly@Soulstops ,

      Lyla,
      I’m treasuring this:”Don’t waste your most important writing. Write the work that won’t be read.” Thank you!

      • LW Lindquist ,

        Thanks Dolly. I can say with reasonable certainty that if I’d pushed myself to write what I did for those weeks to be read, I’d have missed some very important work I needed to do. The fact that it *wouldn’t* be read gave me the space to write what was necessary.

      • Heather Eure ,

        Good thoughts, Lyla. I appreciate how, in voicing your experience, it stirs the mind to consider personal motivations. The “why” of blogging. It leads to a place where there are no wrong answers, just insight. Thanks for this.

        • LW Lindquist ,

          Great point, Heather, that there are no wrong answers. (Except perhaps to the extent that we do the work to identify what is the right path for us individually, but then ignore our own conclusions on the matter. 😉 ) I completely agree with you that we have to (and perhaps regularly) explore the why, and assess if what we are doing (whether blogging or not blogging, publishing or not publishing, even writing or not writing) is healthy for us and the people around us, and whether it is accomplishing what we need it to. I’d have to say the answer to that question (not a right or wrong one) will change from time to time.

          Oh, look at me. I am rife with parentheticals today. 😉

        • Monica Sharman ,

          I am fighting every temptation to type “Wow. Just wow.” 😉

          “Outlet” is a good word to explain why I started blogging. I also started blogging for the poetry and relationships. And then when the relationship part fell off (my table at the coffee shop was empty), I quit blogging. Blogging did take away 100% of the time I spent on my top-priority writing project. Still, I don’t regret the few years I spent blogging because of the people I met in the process. Now I do work on the top-priority projects, but oen difference the blogging stint made is that I no longer feel like I’m writing alone.

          • identicon

            Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Monica – I think you raise some really interesting points about writing in community. I think this is another point to consider when thinking about blogging. In some ways, it’s a social medium, and as such, is as much about the interaction and mutuality as it is about the writing. There’s an important place for that, I think.

            Many writers, myself included, may want blogging to be a broadcast medium – like book publishing – where I hit publish and then people come and read. I think blogging is like that only for people who have done the work of the social aspect first, or for people who are wildly famous. Getting and keeping traffic on a blog is almost a separate task from the writing itself.

            I find that I am moving in both directions on this issue. I am more comfortable with putting work on my blog as a kind of record of what I am doing for whomever happens to find it, and at the same time, I have been reinvigorated by the ways I can reach out and encourage others through the platform of a blog. In other words, I think I’ve released some of the pressure of numbers and am just doing with my blog what feels right for me.

            Thanks for your comment, Monica! It’s great to interact about this issue. Lyla is a conversational genius!

            • LW Lindquist ,

              I have no regrets for the time I spent blogging regularly, either. The writing I did during that time was formative for me in so many ways. And the relationships were (still are) such a delightful surprise.

              • LW Lindquist ,

                Oh, and Monica, I meant to respond to the word “outlet.” When my son was running a little hot and cold on playing his guitar, a musician friend told me that in order to be motivated to develop, an artist needs an outlet. In this case, he needed guys to play with and a reason to play, and when he had that, he was eager to practice and learn new things. I think the same will apply to the writing craft. I know for me, without the blog, I had no outlet for my writing, and no reason to work at it. Tweetspeak offers me another outlet, and it’s one that makes me work even harder on the craft than when I was writing on my blog. So as a motivation for blogging, I think “outlet” is of such a huge value.

              • michelle ortega ,

                My blog has seen its share of cobwebs this past year as well, for several reasons, but mostly because I have been writing longhand (just for me). I started blogging because I had been writing poetry and taking pictures and wanted to share, but I was really afraid. Most bloggers write because they want to gain an audience, and believe it or not, the fewer the people that visited the site caused me great relief in the beginning! I dabbled in a few activities to see where my work would fit, and came to discover several online voices that cause me to pause, to think and sometimes to respond. (I formulate more replies in comments and never send them than truly imaginable!) Now I use my blog sometimes to share a work, and sometimes to participate in groups. Most of my writing now is not specific, but a culling through of many layers that impede or enhance my own voice in my writing. If “Every piece of writing tries to go back to its roots” (Rumors of Water, LL Barkat, pg 18), then the roots are the wellspring which cannot be feared! I hope to have a richer resonance when the next season of public writing emerges.

                • LW Lindquist ,

                  Fascinating process, to decide where you feel you/your work fit, and how you want to go about it. I think it’s this intentional piece of it all that we sometimes miss. We get carried along with a particular current, not thinking about whether it’s going where we want to (or need to) go.

                  Love that you are writing longhand, not to be shared widely. What do you find as the greatest fruit of that kind of writing?

                  (Looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks, Michelle.)

                  • michelle ortega ,

                    I think the most powerful message I received for myself was to “Enter into the story.” No matter what piece I am writing. There is a huge block between how I speak and relate to people, and what comes out when I attempt to write about intimate, difficult perspectives. Something I realized is though I wrote creatively as a young child and journaled almost constantly, I started filtering my writing for fear that someone would find my journal and read it. Then I just stopped writing altogether until about 7 or 8 years ago (in my late 30’s). No “fruit” yet, but I welcome the process; this pruning is excruciatingly beautiful!

                    Really looking forward to meeting you, as well, Lyla!

                    • LW Lindquist ,

                      The freedom to write without worrying about someone else reading it is so important. It’s hard enough when it’s just myself looking over my shoulder. To fear that it might be someone else can be debilitating. In much of the writing I do now, I’m following Anthony Connolly’s model of write first, ask questions later (I think that’s what he said). That is, I just write it now, knowing that there are parts that will have to be either removed or altered later. But getting it out there in the first place goes a long way toward getting to the good writing.

              • Sheila Dailie ,

                Seeing words you write or speak always makes me smile, at least at first. Quite often, you open options, dig deeper, cause cancer-like blemishes to no longer be suppressed.

                Beautiful words, from deep in the well.

                And freedom for all who write, for whatever reason, if only for an audience of one.

                • LW Lindquist ,

                  “At least at first.” Heh. 😉

                  Opening options is one of the best things we can do with our writing (and one of the reasons I feel towards good poetry the way that I do). If we can show a reader (without using blunt force) another way of looking at something, we’ve done a good thing. And I’m thinking there of another way of looking at something that we, as the writer, haven’t even seen yet. That’s good writing. 😉

                • Laura Brown ,

                  You had me at “cobbler.”

                  And then again at “longhand.”

                  And then again at “deep and necessary.”

                  I would tell you why, but that’s not something for this blog, or for my own. It’s something for me to write longhand on a blank page in the morning.

                  Thank you.

                  • LW Lindquist ,

                    I hope you’ll do that, Laura. Write those longhand pages.

                    Let me know if you need an envelope to seal them in when you’re done. 😉

                  • Ljdowns ,

                    I love this and boy have I been here. I also blogged for years, starting while we lived overseas as a way to keep in touch. I enjoyed the connecting and the response to my writing, but I had no idea while I was “away” that blogging had become such a THING. That everyone was doing it. So when we came home, I felt like I should continue, because it was there, and…everyone was doing it. But I was fearful about how I would measure up and my writing became self-conscious. I lost joy in writing for its own sake. About that time that I stumbled on TSP and I fell in love with this new kind of writing – poetry. I initially felt like I couldn’t play the game without having a blog to play from so I started a new blog which ended nearly as quickly as it began. I got my mojo back when I gave myself permission to be a blog-less writer, content to read, enjoy, engage with other writers via their venues, without the need to prove myself via my own. There’s something massively freeing about not having to produce anything for other people to see. There will be a day for that, but for now, I write for me and I cheer for you when you write and share it with me!

                    • LW Lindquist ,

                      Leah, I love that you found a way to write in a way that is satisfying for you without needing to blog. (The challenge for others can be to write in a way that is satisfying *with* a blog. And others still who have mastered that, found all the freedom they need with a blog on which to post their work.)

                      It can be hard as a writer, I think, not to have a reader. But I think there is great value in having some work that goes unread, simply because of the function that work serves for us personally. And, at times, because it’s just not ready for an audience. The pressure (real or imagined) to keep publishing current work can sometimes bring that work to its audience prematurely.

                    • SImplyDarlene ,

                      I got my BlogLand card stamped for the first time in 2008 too — just a couple of months before the commencement of my family’s relocation saga. Four moves in five years. My only earthly constant was the online community I’d found each time I plugged into a new outlet.

                      Even though I’ve not propped myself up on a pajama-clad elbow or twisted fruit stems about on my tongue, the content and the timing of your piece have collided with current dumpster thoughts I’ve been having about my blog.

                      You TSPoetry people sure are doing a number on me this year… it’s good. Even when it hurts a bit.

                      Blessings.

                      • LW Lindquist ,

                        I should be careful to make clear I’m not suggesting anyone blog or not blog. I think we each have our own situations and reasons and things to put into and things to get out of it. 🙂 I can see where having the online community would have been very stabilizing during that time. I love my online friends dearly.

                        What I’m more interested in is whether having a blog makes us more prone to publish things that would be better left processed with a trusted friend (or small group of friends) or if it keeps us at times from doing our best (or important interior) work. It’s a balance question that I think is worth asking ourselves from time to time, before hitting the Big Blue Button.

                        • SImplyDarlene ,

                          Thanks for making clear a different writerly angle.

                          And it’s too bad there’s not a scratch-n-sniff button on this piece. Cake, coffee, cherries, cobbler… oh my!

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                            Charity Singleton Craig ,

                            Lyla – I think this is the key question: whether the blog format itself demands something of us that isn’t always good. If blogs didn’t exist, we could still ask it of the smaller segment of the population that has to produce something quickly and regularly: the columnist. I think it boils down to what expectation people set for their blog, and whether or not the discipline of posting something regularly keeps them from doing other work, too, if that’s their goal. Honestly, if things in my life weren’t shifting right now to give me more time to write, I would probably have to close up shop here, too, because you are right about the time crunch. But since I have time to blog AND . . . , then I think the blog itself adds an important dimension for me right now.

                            • LW Lindquist ,

                              And, as I mentioned somewhere up above, I think that whether or not that something that the blog requires is good can change over time, so it’s important to be sensitive to it.

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                              Charity Singleton Craig ,

                              Hmmm, my button is gray!

                        • Nancy Kourmoulis ,

                          Like David I was sad about your blog breakup as well. Still have many of your thoughts written in my journal (and heart). Yet I understood, life changes and we have to move forward with it.

                          I also closed my own little blog space last year. The thoughts became too personal to share in such an open forum. I still put pencil to paper “writing the work that won’t be read.” For now that is enough.

                          • LW Lindquist ,

                            Nancy, I think you and I started and ended around the same time. And who knows, the time may come again to open that little space up. I’ve appreciated your friendship. 🙂

                          • Diana Trautwein ,

                            I’m with David on this one, I think. It is a painful break up for me. I love what you do for TSP, yes, I do. But I miss what you did at your own place. I get everything you’ve written here. I do. I just don’t like it very much.

                            • LW Lindquist ,

                              I can appreciate that. 🙂 Thanks, Diana.

                            • david Rupert ,

                              Well, I for one didnt take the breakup very well. And like a jilted lover, it still stings. As one of your biggest fans, I still have several of your posts printed. Your “Work of an Adjuster” is one of the best work-faith-highcalling pieces ever.

                              Your words that you wrote were so very powerful and meaningful and now… they’re kept in a bottle. So maybe they didnt mean anything to you, but they did to us.

                              So, one day, when they are ready to be released, we’ll be there.

                              • LW Lindquist ,

                                Oh, David. 🙂 You’ve long been one of the best encouragers of my work. I don’t take that lightly.

                                Nor do I think that what I had written meant nothing to me. If that were the case, the blog would have been deleted by now. 🙂 There’s a lot of work there I’m still proud of.

                                I write all the time, David. My words are not all stored in a bottle. You know where you can find me. 🙂

                                • L.L. Barkat ,

                                • Maureen ,

                                  Really good, resonant post, Lyla. I love how you concluded it, and how enormously full of possibility that statement is.

                                  • LW Lindquist ,

                                    Thank you, Maureen. It is full of possibility, I think. And wide open to fit the particular circumstance of any writer.

                                • Megan Willome ,

                                  Lyla, what you’ve written comforts me in an unexpected way–I’m not giving my best writing to my blog. Therefore, at the moment, I don’t think it’s wasted. Maybe someday I’ll feel the need for a break-up, but not now. Now it’s filling a need somewhere down the scale for the 3rd-best, 4th-best, 5th-best stuff.

                                  • LW Lindquist ,

                                    I love that, Megan, that you are still writing on your blog, but recognizing that it may not be the best work you have to offer — that it’s being invested elsewhere. That isn’t wasted at all, though I think the conscious recognition of that is important, that everything we do won’t be the most important or best thing we’ve ever done (or are doing).

                                    • identicon

                                      Charity Singleton Craig ,

                                      Megan – This is why I have forced my blog to be something specific, otherwise, I wasn’t working for me because it wanted my best work. I don’t think my blog is my worst work, and I think the format and discipline of it is helping me grow in many ways. I also have continued to find that it can be a platform for me to engage with people. (more than just as a marketing tool)

                                      On the other hand, as I think about my writing in general and my relationship to my readers, I want them to receive some of my best work for free. I like this concept of generosity in platform building that occasionally asks people to pay or to buy, but often says I value you enough to offer something valuable to you with no strings attached. So while every blog post may not be my best work or most important work, I do hope that many of the blog posts are good and important. I’m offering them up with that hope.

                                  • L.L. Barkat ,

                                    I always loved that… the breakup note to the blog. Makes me smile.

                                    Those are very powerful words: “I remember.” If we choose to write them down. And, in writing them, we re-create the memories with maybe a little more of what we need, right now. I wonder what your “I remember” will look like in ten years, in twenty. And whether they’ll be ones you choose to leave unread.

                                    • LW Lindquist ,

                                      Well, and that’s the thing there, too. To know that those pages needn’t be a one-time thing, but that 10 years from now I may do it again. 😉

                                      And I do think it’s important to recognize, as we remember things, that the memories will not be wholly accurate. They can’t be. But they give us what we need as we allow ourselves to remember as best as we are able to do.

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                                        Charity Singleton Craig ,

                                        This post has me thinking about how little I write for me, anymore. Blogging took the place of journaling in those early days because of the dailiness of it, though my blog wasn’t actually a “journal” as such.

                                        I’ve also been thinking about some internal work I need to do connecting my growing up home with the way I act and respond as married woman and step mom. Starting with “I remember” seems like an excellent prompt.

                                        And these two ideas -writing for only me from the prompt “I remember” – seems like a really good idea. Thanks, Lyla!

                                        • LW Lindquist ,

                                          Those two words changed the game for me, Charity. And while what’s in those pages is really poor quality in terms of the writing, I’ve been able to pull from it at times and work it into other writing projects. Getting it out and processed first, though, gave me the distance I needed. Hope that you find something rich in this exploration for yourself.