This morning I wrote a long blog post about how I used writing, art, yoga and meditation to overcome Postnatal Depression.
I’ve been meaning to write that particular story for a while now, but I kept avoiding it. It’s like my mother’s death. I haven’t written about that either. Instead, I veer off into more enjoyable, and sometimes more intellectual, experiences that I can share with my words.
But at 5 am this morning, with the rain tapping steadily against the window, announcing yet another grey, dreary day, I hammered out the first draft. With each new paragraph, my irritation and discomfort increased. I haven’t read over that deeply honest purge onto the page yet – when I was done I simply closed the laptop and headed to the kitchen for another cup of tea.
But writing about Postnatal Depression, and sifting through my memories of that period in my life, which was difficult for many reasons, has left me with an unpleasant aftertaste.
I found myself unable to focus today, feeling well and truly uninspired and flat. I felt like simply floating around for a while, not having to create anything – with words or paint or even just in my imagination. No thinking at all.
Perhaps writing a long story about a not-so-nice part of one’s life is like overeating on a Sunday lunch. Now I need an afternoon nap to digest the residue of drenching up those emotions, experiences and memories.
Natalie Goldberg, in her book Wild Mind, talks about writing slowly, so that we can go deeper into the topics that require it of us.
“…there is a quiet place in us, below our hip personality that is connected to our breath, our words, and our death…. That is where the best writing comes from and we must connect with it in order to write well.”
It’s not okay for me to write about healing from Postnatal Depression (or the death of my mother) in a superficial or glib manner. That’s approaching the sensitive matter from a place of fear, which leads to the kind of writing that only scratches the surface of the topic and doesn’t serve anyone.
For a topic such as this, she says, I have to sit with it, slow down and dig deep into the memories and emotions that will make the piece appeal to the human side of anyone, anywhere in the world. Only then I do it justice.
“How much have I digested everything that I know and am, so when I write a sentence it comes out silent? What I mean by silent is that it communicates directly to your heart and mind, and there aren’t any squeaky words that don’t fit, words that are afraid.”
Anything less than that reminds me of fast-food – a cheap, drive-through read of the kind that we have too much of already and that doesn’t do anyone any good.
So – for now, I am sitting with the piece on Postnatal Depression, saved in my drafts, and trying to figure out how to write slowly. Or, since Natalie says it so much better,
“When I write about the death of my mother, that death shouldn’t bolt upright like a rodeo horse and run out of the sentence. Instead, I should fully digest my mother’s death and lay it silently on the page.”
Perhaps one day, when I have fully digested many of my life’s experiences, including the violent death of my mother and overcoming Postnatal Depression, I will be able to write slowly and deeply about it and lay it silently on the page to be of service to anyone who reads it.
Do you know how to write slowly when it comes to your sensitive topics? Please share – I’d love to know how, and I’m sure others would too.
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