Working in the Margins

clusters of white wild flowers in a green meadow of grass.

I can't focus.
I've been sitting here for almost two hours. 
I write a sentence. I delete it. I write another. I delete it also. I don't know what I want to say. Everything feels forced or dry or boring. 

This is my favorite work. 

Not this part specifically, where I'm sitting here unfocused and deleting everything I write because I'm judging what my fingers peck out. This part is pure torture. In this space, I feel fairly certain that I was not meant to do this work. I've convinced myself numerous times in the last hour to give it up, "it" being more than just this so-far-failed essay. 

But I've been here before. This part is where I always start. Even when my thought-writing produces something brilliant, as soon as I sit down to write it out something changes and it no longer seems as worthy or important as it did in my head. 

No, this is not the part I love. But it is still part of the work. 

Type without judgment. 
Dive deeply into descriptions. 
Paint with color.
Avoid cliché.
Bleed on the page.

There's nothing to bleed right now. I'm too busy walling off my grief. The grief knocks gently on my wall. It begs quietly to be let in. But I'm afraid of it. I already know it is too big. Too big to contain. Too big to set free. If I raise the gate in the wall, the grief will rush toward the hole and the flood will wipe out everything. It will swallow me. I will drown. 
This too is the work.

This is one of my favorite parts. The part when my fingers start typing and I lose sight of the backspace key. That's the zone I fall into once I've worked through my resistance. I find it when I set out to show you my world. But it is hard to induce by demand. It requires my willingness to empty but before I can empty I must be ready to look the thing in the face.

I'm not always ready to look the thing in the face. And until then, everything I write will probably be erased. But even the words that are removed help me get closer. Every little bit I write, whether it stays or goes, is also part of the work.

Tell the truth, but tell it slant.
Evoke emotion.
Step back.
Be brave.
Edit with abandon.

Cracks are splitting in the walls. The grief leaks out in small droplets. I mop at the little puddles, soaking in their messages. I cannot keep anything dry. One crack expands as the wall swells, grief-logged. There's so much swelling. It hurts. I try to fill the biggest crack, to stop the leak by half-heartedly focusing on the bit of grief that's gotten through.  I try to focus on the bit of grief that's broken through, to resolve it or contain it. But it's a temporary fix. It won't hold. 
I cannot keep the flood from coming.

Yes, this is all a part of the work.

This is where the work settles in. When it's all laid out in front of me and the bare-bones are ready to be refined. This is the part where it all gets worked over (and over and over again) with careful molding and shaping. This, too, is work I love.  This is my happiest work because I know what is on the other side. I will have a completed piece, yes, but I will also have so much more. 

You see, inside the margins, the work has transformed the work. 

This post was inspired by a monthly theme from illuminate, a writing community from the creators of The Kindred Voice

Read more on this month's theme, work, written by other illuminate members:

How Do You Define 'Work'? by Adeola Sheehy
My Work is Never Done (a poem) by Mia Sutton
What Do You Do? by Hannah Kewley
They Say a Mother's Work is Never Done by Leesha Mony
You Gotta Work B**ch by Amy Rich
Labors of Love by Liz Russell
on my terms. by Eunice Brownlee
I Am a Writer by Christine Carpenter
Potted Houseplant by Crystal James


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