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Working on a new essay. The assignment? What writing means to me. I still struggle with this type of assignment. Taking a stab…here are bits.

Sheepscot R. Maine Natural Heritage photo

Estuarine life, and my love of writing, spawned at the mouth of the Sheepscot River. From a young age, I participated in writing groups. Over thirty years of writing, I have grown accustomed to recognizing new and seasoned writers. New writers like to talk about writing as a process, what writing means to them and their identity as a writer—flexing and focused on it like a newly-muscled limb on a lithe and growing body. These writers flush pink at the mention of their love for the craft. Seasoned writers dive off the deep end of the writers’ group: they read or share their pieces without preamble. They cut to the chase, as if following Raymond Carver’s rule for writing: “Get in, get out, don’t linger.”

I found my voice early. Long before I learned how to write with a pen or pencil, I understood how to record and narrate. I lugged a heavy tape recorder around the house when I was little. I found a quiet room, plugged it into an outlet and pressed the chunky “play” and “record” buttons together. The blank tape hummed, an insect buzzing as the tape wound ‘round in the radio. I talked into the microphone, a bull’s eye that saw and heard my stories.

For a seasoned writer, the writing process is a solitary act, for the most part. I belong to two writers groups (one in-person, one online).  Writers foster a creative and supportive community with one another but the act itself, I’ve always observed, is best to do in private. Writing is right up there with installing obnoxious curtain hardware or eating sandwiches too big for one’s mouth, dripping with caramelized onions. There’s always the off-chance that I might have a witness, but the writing process is not performance art. That would be the most awful—and embarrassing—act to sit through. Scene: Writer is lying face-down on the living room carpet surrounded by pages, presumably doing “nothing.” Audience reads program and it says, “Revision.” Revising can look like a very bad hair day when things are going well. I like to work at my writing desk, an antique trestle table built by my great grandfather. The dented, dark mahogany wood grain is as soft as blotting paper and smooth as driftwood.

Jackson

One of my favorite authors, Shirley Jackson, is considered “a writer’s writer.” That means she appeals to writers rather than readers of other vocations. When I read Jackson, I feel like she’s sharing an inside joke with me—and I get it. I understand because we both walk the path of the writer. Sometimes this is a solitary, unpopular path; other times, we’re suddenly the popular girl at the party with the best stories. I look to Jackson’s writing as a set of teachings. Her novelette, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, for example, reads like a creepy fictionalized (and maniacal) version of my childhood, complete with children’s taunting of an eerie, imaginative narrator. It’s a brilliant plot twist.

Wading into eel grass, I trudged into tidal waters off my favorite swimming rock, where no one else but my hardy grandmother liked to swim. I came of age skimming a rocky bottom, strewn with sea glass and broken beer bottles.  I parted the itchy blades, sharp as steak knives, and numbed my skin to the frigid temperature of the river. Kicking against the current, I tread water under trestle bridges and soaked my senses with that saltwater. It seeped into me, semi-permeably. I write to channel that energy, the teachings of my spirit guides and favorite writers, and the passionate impulses of my imagination. I don’t write because I want to be a writer. I am compelled to write because there’s always material.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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