I often choose poems by Mary Oliver to use as writing prompts in my classes. Last week I chose Hallelujah, from her book, Evidence. In this poem there’s a phrase: “… nothing important is ever easy.” As much as I love Mary’s poetry, I don’t agree with this statement.
When people hear me say I’m a writer, most often their response is: “Writing is hard.” What are the expectations of any individual who says this, either in self-talk or to others? I prefer to invite a new perspective, like a turn of the kaleidoscope to see a new image that wasn’t available before. When I hear others tell me, “Writing is hard,” I now respond, “It doesn’t have to be.” Try it on for yourself: What if it could be easy?
I have developed a practice of eliminating “hard” from my vocabulary, whether as a descriptor of my activities or my life. Finding accurate adjective replacements is an intriguing exercise. For example, “I’ve had a hard life” has become, “I’ve had some painful times in my life”, or “I’ve struggled with not feeling loved.” Digging below the surface of “hard” allows me to tell the deeper truth of my existence. I am discovering enormous freedom when I make new word choices.
Writing my book was rigorous but it wasn’t “hard”. Some aspects were scary and daunting; if my mind went to thinking this was hard, I froze up and didn’t want to move forward. So I’d talk myself down off the ledge of fear, saying instead, “This might be uncomfortable and take more time than I’d like, and I’m doing it anyway. I trust the people who are giving me editorial suggestions.” I am less likely to approach the “hard” things on a regular basis. So why do I return to writing again and again? Because I love the unpredictability of words flowing on to the page, the sense of groundedness and connection I have when I show up for my writing dates.
As a result of this practice of word choice, I’m looking for my truth beneath words I used to casually speak. Those words no longer fit the world I’m living in, the world I want to create for others. Words have power. Are there words you can choose that will shape a different reality?