“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place… Something more will arise for later, something better…”
~Annie Dillard in The Writing Life
I read a story recently, about mothers and daughters and the stories we tell our children. I know the importance of stories, I’ve lived and breathed them from the moment I realized that black squiggles on a page congregate in the quiet and create words. As I read about this sharing of stories–how it leads to a deep knowing, how strings made of sentences bind us to one another–I thought about how much of myself I hoard.
I follow this one writer closely. If she’s writing, I’m reading. She spends herself every time, giving her best, her heartfelt, the things she holds dear. She teaches me how to let go, how to spend every word I have in the best way possible, how to live in faith. I hoard out of fear that nothing more will arise, that I have used up my meager talent and my vanilla stories and that the well of creativity doesn’t run as deep as I wish.
Around our house, we jokingly refer to my youngest as a hoarder. Her bedroom is a Pandora’s box of half-used notebooks, sparkly dresses, garish plastic cook wear, and snub nosed pencils. She hides bits and pieces of herself in every corner, but it’s impossible to distinguish the lovely from the rubbish. Her room, and I daresay her organizational skills, need an overhaul. She hides her stories in notebooks and shoves them into boxes and baskets all over the room, and we never quite know where to find one of her four tiaras or the plastic grapes. I have days where I stand at the door to her room and I want to cry. I think she doesn’t know where to begin, and neither do I.
I dress up my hoarding a little bit better. I throw on a pair of red lips and fancy boots and you’d never know the things I keep hidden in the recesses. Writing helps, it’s my way of organizing a wildly entertaining inner life that somehow looks less so, when it rises to the light at the surface. But even here, in the writing, I find I want to hold back. To hoard the best for later. To squeeze this precious treat tight into my hand until it melts and there is nothing left to eat but a sticky mess smeared into the crevices of my palm.
I do this in other places too. I hold back in the way that I love, the way that I worship, and the way that I express the deepest and most important parts of me. I gather the coins of my friendship for fear of spending them all in one place. I save the best story and file it away for “later”. I don’t trust love or my gifts or God enough to believe that once I go for broke, my empty pockets will expand with more gold, my old wineskins exchanged for those that bulge with new wine.
I sense a cleaning of the house is in order–a throwing away of the old, and a sharing of the new, the holy, the beautiful. May I have the faith to spend it all, every time.
How are you shooting it, playing it, and losing it all? If you’re not, what holds you back?