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Today, cobwebs hang about the place like Miss Havisham’s; unpublished drafts sit like a crumbling three-tiered cake still waiting for the wedding guests to come.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.
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
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.
Photos by Lyla Willingham Lindquist, used with permission.