Writer’s Weekend Edition – This Is Who I Am

Writers live and work at the intersection of life and ideas. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, poetry or op eds, our life experiences and the words we share are connected. Sometimes, the connection is obvious. Sometimes, it’s more subtle. But, it’s always there – a thread or a “through line” that stitches life and work together into a whole.

I was reminded of this truth the other day when I came across Elle Luna’s 2014 Medium post, The Crossroads of Should and Must. In this piece (which eventually became a book), Luna uses Picasso as an example of someone who embodies this blended approach to being:

“Picasso’s life blended seamlessly with his work. It was all one huge swirling mix of bullfights and beaches and booze. And we could tell. Because to look at one of Picasso’s canvases is quite literally to look into his soul. And this is exactly what happens when our life, our essence, is one and the same with our work. It’s when job descriptions and titles no longer make sense because we don’t go to work— we are the work.”

She even offers a visual to illustrate the idea:

Credit: Elle Luna

Credit: Elle Luna

This concept of the artist (or writer) being the work has been on my mind more and more since I stumbled across Luna’s post, and it’s helping me to understand the transition I’m going through in my own work.

··• )o( •··

I haven’t exactly made a secret of the fact that I was deeply affected by the outcome of last year’s U.S. election. I might even go so far as to say that I have been transformed in some ways, both as a person and as a writer.

This transformation is taxing, and is at least partly to blame for my being absent from these weekend posts for the past three weeks. I have had an unexpectedly heavy work load for January; but more than that, I have been at a loss for words. I have been unsure of what I want to or should say. I have been questioning my purpose and my role here on the blog and as a writer in general. I have been reassessing my priorities.

Before I came to my desk to write this post, I took a moment to look back at some of the pieces I’ve published since the election. I wanted to see if they held any clues about my trajectory. In running through the post titles, I saw that I have been careening all over the place in terms of “who I am” as a writer.

My first batch of posts following November 9th included a craft piece on how to write effectively about issues, a quick rant about why art matters, a more direct post about discovering my civic voice, and a hopeful ramble about finding the silver lining when you’re lost in the dark. In all these pieces, I was reacting (without much editing) to what I was experiencing in my life as I witnessed the world changing. I was trying to make sense of what was happening.

And then, I turned inward. I tried to bring myself back to a place where I could write pieces that were a little more uplifting and in the style of what I have written here in the past. I wrote a short piece offering reassurance that we’re all still ourselves. I wrote about illuminating the beautiful, and I wrote about grounding and connecting.

After that, I hit a bit of a wall. I didn’t have the energy to write anything of substance. I felt so overwhelmed and so confused by the avalanche of information that I was trying to take in. (There is so much to learn!) Though I was feeling so much and had so many thoughts and questions, I was not in a place where I could articulate them even to myself, never mind manage to put them down in words. So, for two weeks I posted pieces that made almost no mention of all the Big Ideas swirling around in my head. Instead of tackling the hard stuff, I wrote about  getting back in gear after the holidays and put together a  summary of your favorite top five weekend edition posts from 2016. I treated my writing here as an assignment to publish “something to do with writing” rather than a place to share my innermost thoughts with fellow writers.

Finally, I went silent for three weeks. I just didn’t know what to say.

··• )o( •··

I almost talked myself out of writing today. I almost let myself off the hook. But in the end I realized that – even if I didn’t feel ready … maybe especially if I didn’t feel ready – I needed to get myself back into the habit of doing it anyway.

I share these personal details not because I think anyone should care about the minutiae of my writing struggles (they shouldn’t), but in case I’m not the only one going through these stages of “evolution.” Crises (whether in Real Life or fiction) are necessary. They are the catalyst that moves a story forward, the thing that enables growth and change. Crises bring clarity by stripping away the superficial and leaving us with only the most critical elements of who we are. They help us define ourselves by revealing where our loyalties lie. They help us identify our true purpose by clearly demonstrating which beliefs matter to us most.

In the best scenarios, crises help us to grow by taking our attention off ourselves and expanding our perspective to include others. Caring about and understanding the world beyond our own doorstep is important for any human  being, but it’s absolutely essential for a writer. It’s our job as storytellers to do the hard work of stepping outside our own skins so that we can, through our writing, help others experience that same journey, see a story (and the world) from different perspectives, and learn to discover their own truth.

··• )o( •··

My identity as a writer is not yet fully baked. I’m still finding my way to more solid ground. But, I’m choosing to (as much as possible) find a way to create the blending of life and art that Luna talked about in her essay and her book.  Even while I’m on the journey to that place where I am “being” more than “doing” the work, I need to own my life experience and how that experience influences my writing. My life experience should be an asset to my work, not a hinderance. I don’t want to have to hide or downplay my beliefs or my personal feelings. I want to have the freedom to be myself. All the time – in my life and in my work.

This is who I am.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.

32 thoughts on “Writer’s Weekend Edition – This Is Who I Am

  1. It’s hard to write to effect when there’s a tiger on your tail. (Metaphorical or otherwise.) My particular tiger today is my 12-year-old son’s insistence that he get some time on my computer. I’ve run out of ‘me’ time, so will only have the breath to say, you are not alone.

    • I love the visual metaphor of having a “tiger on my tail.” That’s perfect!
      Sorry your son was harassing you for the computer, but I think you for letting me know I’m not alone (phew!) and I’m sending wishes that you get some more “me” time soon (on the computer, or off!).

    • Thank you, Simon. It’s so nice to “see” you, and I very much appreciate your kind words. The world DOES need writers now more than ever. There are so many stories to share! I am very grateful to be here. 🙂 <– I'm not emoji-literate enough to know how to make the blushing face, but know that I am, in fact, blushing.

  2. Since misery always loves company, I will share that I certainly experience ebbs and flows of this nature. My production levels are directly tied to what is going on around me and what my stress levels are. The holiday season always throws me for a loop. My downtime was three weeks over December and January which is a new best. Usually it’s longer. I wish I could write through those periods in my life, but I can’t. Just wanted to let you know you have lots of company! 🙂

    • Thank you, Laura. Sorry you’ve been feeling similarly. It’s disorienting to feel so much doubt and indecision. I have regretted more than once that I have put my writing aside during times of great stress. When I look back, I am sorry that I did not have the foresight or the fortitude to capture my thoughts and feelings in those critical moments. Not that I want to relive them, but I think I could have learned from my writing.
      But, we can’t live in our regrets. Instead, we must try to move forward and learn to make decisions that we WON’T regret … like getting back in the saddle, even when we’ve been thrown for a loop. 🙂
      I’m pulling for you!

  3. You’re definitely not the only one, quite a number writer-bloggers seem to be at odds with themselves and the world. We all react differently, and it’s actually extremely interesting to see all the variations. This post is maybe the most honest and well-thought out analysis of an ongoing process, and very helpful to anyone going through very similar steps. You say your writer persona is not fully baked, but rest assured there’s definitely a very strong indentity in the making.

    • Hello, Bea! How are things in Italy?
      I know it’s only been a few weeks, but it feels like much longer since I’ve connected here. It’s nice to be back … makes me feel a little more like myself, so to speak.

      Thank you very much for your kind words about the post. I think we are each of us feeling our way through the dark here. That means we will likely stumble quite a lot and maybe take a wrong turning, but I’m finally realizing that we can’t just stand still in the blackness and wait to be rescued.

      I would love to hear more about what you’re seeing in other parts of the blogosphere in terms of how people are responding and adapting. Sadly, I’ve had almost no time to catch up on my own blog reading. Have you come across any other posts on similar topics?

      Thanks, as always, for being here. I’m always happy to see your sunset icon in the comments section. 🙂

  4. Thanks for this candid post about being overwhelmed by events and information, hitting a wall, being at a loss for words, and re-visiting where you are as a writer – I can relate! The thing about being a writer with a blog is having a greater sense of urgency (I think) about having something of value to say during a time when many people are in a similar state of speechlessness. I pressured myself about this but then had to allow that I need time to process. Everybody’s talking, everybody’s writing! If it takes a minute for me to gather myself before I can write something worth reading then so be it. be well!

    • That’s a great observation, Leslie – everybody’s talking, everybody’s writing … no one person needs to take responsibility for everything. Taking time to process things is so important. The pace of the news cycle is so frenetic that we can easily fall into the trap of feeling like we have to respond immediately, but sometimes the wise course of action is to hold back for a minute and give yourself time to think. Thanks for that!

  5. Jamie, I feel terrible that you are going through this distress. I want you to be well and enjoy the writing journey. Expressing our feelings is great, but certainly not the only objective of writing. It can do so many things and serve so many purposes. I am struggling through chemotherapy at the moment and now I understand priorities very clearly. I have to fight to put words on paper right now. I’m editing two books and writing a third. It’s a very slow go, but it is exactly what I want to do. I’ve found my goal and I embrace it completely. It drives me forward. Let your goals drive you forward. Don’t worry about how to express yourself, or settle the conflicts in your mind. Craft this beautiful language into positive feelings and situations, and realize what you are capable of – bring joy to your own heart.

    • Thank you, Christine. I’m sorry to hear that you are having to go through chemo. I am so impressed that you are continuing to write and edit and are able to keep your focus through such a challenging time. I will find my way. Not to worry. A big part of my struggle comes from the fact that I am, so to speak, “late to the game” … I have never been actively involved in social causes other than making donations, so I’m trying to learn a lot and do a lot, all at once. I will find my rhythm and my balance in time. I’m sure of that.
      In the meantime, thank you for your encouragement and reminder that we need o find the joy. So very true.

  6. Thanks for the honest and encouraging post. I have been crippled with family relationship troubles as well as all of the discouraging current events. It all seems unreal. I’ve found it difficult to work through all my emotions and somehow free my exhausted yet restrained thoughts. If I sit down to write, the words do come but I haven’t experienced the sense of urgency that had accompanied my writing prior to all of the stress. You’re not alone. Thanks for writing.

    • “Unreal” is a good way to describe what many people are experiencing right now.
      I like what you said about “If I sit down to write, the words do come …” Even if the same urgency you used to, just the fact that the words are coming is a very encouraging sign. We have to cut ourselves some slack and realize that there will be some adjustments in the flow of our work. And that’s okay. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing.

  7. I need someone to explain to me why politics and what happens in the life of a passionate writer could cause them to seize up. Here down under the world scene and the behaviour of the people in a country once looked up to for leading the world in democracy is alarming. Some, now behaving like a third world country. If people don’t like the way the President was democratically elected then they ALL should behave in a democratic way. Work towards difference in next election. Passionately use the creative gifts to support the one in Office. (Not the media job to destroy!!!…Not indeed celebrity voice to be considered more important than a ‘majority’ who voted.) Also past Presidents should be seen and not heard. If a past Prime Minister in our country kept making comments…he would be shown the door quick smart.(probably sent to other side of world). There ‘s something happening here that concerns me both as a writer and as a human being.

    • One of the most beautiful things about this country is the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. That freedom applies to ordinary citizens, artists, celebrities (even past presidents), and – perhaps most importantly – the free press. There are many of us who are working diligently to make a difference in the 2018 elections, and part of that work is making sure our voices and the voices of those we support are heard. We ensure this through peaceful protest, signing petitions, calling elected officials, writing stories, and creating art. That’s all part of the democratic process.

      • I do not live in the US, but always thought accepting the results of a legal election was the foundation of a democratic society. The first amendment (free speech) is part of your constitution, but has become the excuse to spread gossip, innuendo, and propaganda. Before you believe anything – research it and verify the accuracy. Read the quotes and the content before accepting opinions. Like Faye, I have concerns and I agree with her statements. The democratic process must be respected and upheld above all else.

      • I can only speak for myself, Christine, but while I do accept the results of the election, I do not consider that any reason to sit by in silence when the elected leaders of our country make decisions that I believe are not in the best interests of the country. My engagement is focused on the executive orders and legislation, not on “gossip, innuendo, and propaganda.” And I can assure you that I am doing my utmost to vet all news sources and quotes. As a writer, I am a stickler for accuracy and correct attribution, so that part of this “job” is a given. I am encouraged that so many people – many of whom were previously uninvolved – are stepping up to actively participate in the democratic process, and I hope that their engagement will continue and grow. They may not yet be experts on how to best engage their elected officials, but they are willing to learn. I believe that an active constituency will improve our democracy in many ways, and I look forward to being a part of that effort.

  8. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:

    Writer’s Weekend Edition – This Is Who I Am
    by Suddenly Jamie (@suddenlyjamie)
    Writers live and work at the intersection of life and ideas. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, poetry or op eds, our life experiences and the words we share are connected. Sometimes, the connection is obvious. Sometimes, it’s more subtle. But, it’s always there – a thread or a “through line” that stitches life and work together into a whole.

    I was reminded of this truth the other day when I came across Elle Luna’s 2014 Medium post, The Crossroads of Should and Must. In this piece (which eventually became a book), Luna uses Picasso as an example of someone who embodies this blended approach to being:
    READ THE ENTIRE BLOG POST HERE: https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/writers-weekend-edition-this-is-who-i-am/

  9. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – This Is Who I Am | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

  10. Jamie – I apologize if I offended in any way. These are only my opinions. Perhaps my biggest concern is that your people have no faith in the constitution and laws already in place. Society and government has already secured laws to ensure humanitarian causes. These were real causes (blacks, LGBT, women’s right, refugees, etc) that required laws and policies to be enacted and upheld. You are no longer building new policies – they are already in place.

    Active participation is admirable, but democracy does not allow for interpretation. People who admit they never vote are now screaming about the election results. Too much of the rhetoric is hateful and meaningless with no real focus, other than to dethrone your president. I applaud your efforts to voice the wishes of you and your fellow citizens through peaceful and co-operative means. All of the legal means are there to ensure that the existing laws and policies are upheld.

    • No offense taken at all, Christine. I only responded to clarify my intentions and the kinds of “engagement” I’m taking on personally. There’s such a broad spectrum of responses to what’s happening.

      One of the thing that is most concerning to many of the people I’ve been talking with is the fact that although we have made much progress in recent years with the social issues you mention, there is a very real risk that much of that progress can be rolled back through executive order of the president (though, I realize that’s only a first step) and the actions of a very skewed Congress. Already, the House has repealed several key pieces of environmental legislation, and there are now bills on the books, for example, to completely dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. Add to that the Republican agenda to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (a matter of great concern for freelance writers like myself) and their promise to roll back Roe v. Wade. Again, I realize that none of these things will happen overnight, but even the possibility of them coming to pass is alarming.

      And while I’d very much like to be able to trust in the judicial branch of our government to play the checks-and-balances role that it’s meant to play, I have my worries on that front, too. The fact that our president is openly defying rulings handed down by the 9th circuit courts and referring to federal Judge James Robart as a “so-called judge” … well, those are not facts that make me sleep well at night.

      Sorry – didn’t mean to go into so much gory detail. This is, after all, a blog about writing. 🙂
      It’s just that, as I said in my post, I am feeling the different parts of my life converge around some key beliefs and priorities. I believe that things will eventually settle, but I don’t expect that I will ever go back to keeping my opinions to myself. I am not one of those people who never voted (I always vote!), but I was someone who mostly stayed on the sidelines. For better or worse, that phase of my life is over. I will be respectful and I will do my best to make well-informed and measured moves, but I will put myself out there.

      Thanks for the dialog on this topic. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  11. Pingback: Writer’s Freedom and Freedom.to for Writers | Live to Write – Write to Live

  12. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Being Kind and Creative During a Revolution | Live to Write – Write to Live

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