Lying in bed this morning, long before the slamming of doors and the starting of engines awakened the sleepy barrio, a million thoughts were stampeding through my head. Impressions about the things I looked at or heard as a rolled from side to side, memories, dreams, snippets of songs, sentences from poems or stories I had just read, phrases being pieced together randomly and refitted over and over again for the stories and poems I am working on, and an escalator of crashing crowding items on my ceaseless “honey-do” list, up and foremost to de-flea the dog who thinks he’s mine.

I texted one of these thoughts to a friend who lives back eastern because I knew, given the time difference, that he’d be up. His response was, “You wake up to this?” All thoughts came to a screeching halt as I became horrified at what he would think if he only knew the sensory cacophony I was then experiencing.

“Bing”. I looked down at the new message in my inbox. It read, “Damn! Slow your roll.”

Easier said than done. His comment got me thinking that if I only had a man I loved in my bed, who –of course—loved me too…then it wouldn’t be an issue as I would be otherwise occupied. “Enough!” I scolded myself, “Don’t go there.” Motion, get into motion, that’s the ticket. I pushed myself up out of my cozy nook and shuffled across the cold tile floor to the kitchen to brew some Joe. Nowhere near a satisfying replacement for love and affection, let alone sweltering back scratching sex, but Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is currently bare so café au lait would have to do.

Although it is undeniably true that lovin’ brings me out of my head and into my body, focuses my energy, centers and grounds me, so too does my writing. The latter must first run its tiresome course, which unfortunately sometimes begins with scrambled brains for breakfast. Go too long without writing and I realize that I drift into the doldrums of misery. I may put up a good front and it may not be so drastic when I am occupied with a lover or family or friends or gardening or home improvement projects or insect infested canines all of which require a physical and conscious presence, but I’ll be engulfed by the gloomy cloud of despair if I am unable to put pen to ink on a regular basis. I now know this about myself and have taken it upon myself to practice Good Self Care. I now allow myself to write.

In one of those frozen in time life changing moments when I find myself desperately wishing I were a more superficial person with a well stocked pocket of nonsense flippant comebacks that deflate emotional intensity, someone once asked me if love was enough. And, after a moment of awakening I admitted to myself and to him that it really truly isn’t. I didn't mean that I needed a ring or a wedding or his name before I thought love sufficient as he mistakenly thought I did. Love is EVERYTHING to the Scorpio in me; it is ALL. Nothing else much matters. Except that I also need to write. The epiphany was the acknowledgment that I don't just like to write, that writing isn't just a hobby--that it is so much more. I will always love as it is my nature to do so, and want to be loved—who doesn’t? With or without, in or out of love, writing is my constant, my chi. I can't do without it.

For years I promised myself, assured myself, that I would have the freedom to write when I was an old woman. When, as Virginia Wolf had advised, I had a ‘room of my own’. When I had the ‘space’ and the quietude. Of course, when said at twenty-something with babies on my hip, not a cent to my name and no support the affirmation dripped with sarcasm and oozed cynicism. My situation as a single parent required my immediate attention and I hunkered down for the long haul. I would shelf all artistic aspirations to do what must be done and although the folders with pen scribbled napkins, receipts and fliers began to pile up I couldn’t see the light through the tunnel. After a while, I didn’t even bother looking for it because at twenty-something I had no idea how short that tunnel actually is and that I’d be an old woman in the blink of an eye, cosmically speaking. At twenty-something, fifty and beyond seems like a lifetime away. Only it isn’t and the years catch you up faster than you ever imagined they would. Just as my good mother warned me they would.

On the day of my high school graduation, this mostly silent woman gave me the gift of two pieces of advice one of which was, “From here on in, time flies”. I remember looking at her confounded, thinking, “Really mom? This is your gift to me? Platitudes?” Now, with the benefit of those years that all too swiftly flew just as she said they would, I can better appreciate their value.

My babies are now grown and having babies of their own, and I am alone; my time is my own. So, with coffee in hand, a few quick stretches having been obligatory performed, I am at the keyboard purging myself of the internal chaos. From time to time, I’ll get up and do a few jumping jacks or take a quick jaunt to the top of the hill and back. My fingers will be tapping away at these worn almost letter-less keys until I’m—there.

Where “there” is I can’t tell you exactly, but I have yet to fail to recognize it when I’ve arrived. And when I sit back down in front of this monitor a few days from now with steaming cup in hand to reread all I'll have written today, I’ll experience an indescribable peace and joy and…rightness. Sometimes, the cacophony created by the cluttered hoarder’s closet created by my wildly spiraling consciousness becomes a symphony with surprisingly—to me at least--profound order and beauty.

The words I write don’t have to mean anything to anyone else, do anything for anyone else. Some may think my writing all day a waste of time. Without it, though, I feel my life wasted, not whole, incomplete even with the greatest of loves. Gaining that inner stillness and rightness for the likes of me—in all the ways in which I manage to do so, including writing--has been my saving grace and keeps me from pitching myself off the fence into an overgrown field of lunacy.

There are lots of us on that fence here in San Diego. Lots. Writer blogs jam the Net, not just the Neighborhood Blog pages of the San Diego Reader. At almost every coffeehouse or art gallery there are readings or book signings or workshops for and by writers. Although as Hemmingway felt, a writer’s life can be one of loneliness, the San Diego writing community actively seeks to make it less so.

There are contests and publications that openly solicit content from local writers. The San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, founded by a woman seeking “compatible souls” with whom to “share the joys and travails” of being a writer, is currently reviewing submissions from local contributors for inclusion in an anthology. Writer’s Inc.’s annual fundraiser, Blazing Laptops Write-a-thon to be held on June 10th at Lestat’s Coffee House, invites sponsored writers to write nonstop for nine hours. And the Commonwealth Club of California administers the California Book Awards contest open each July to published authors. For those not yet in print, Publishers and Writers of San Diego is a professional association geared towards the business of getting writers published.

The professional and peer guidance such as these organizations provide, particularly the opportunity to perfect the craft as well as learn how to earn a living from it, are invaluable to newbie’s, to the right brained lot that may struggle more with the parts than with the whole, with the steps rather than with the organic integrated process. Whether we do nothing or something with our writing, however, may not matter as much as it does that we are actively and consistently writing. Because as Gandhi once said, it doesn’t matter how small the thing we feel compelled to do is, it is none-the-less vital that we do it.

Aspiring to do just that, I was at my desk when the first birds began to chirp. It is now 11:46 AM and it’s been a morning well spent: nails clipped—check; article written—check; eggs collected and boiled for lunch—check; poem sketched—check; portion of garden weeded—check; two short stories edited—check; dog bathed and de-flea-ed—check. With a clear mind and my hammock in hand, I am now on the hunt for that perfect set of trees content with my day’s accomplishments.

More like this:


Jake Peterson May 18, 2012 @ 1:23 p.m.

I really enjoyed this. As a young aspiring writer, I am grateful for the tips and similar mindset that I can relate to. You have inspired me to write the story that I have been going over in my mind for the past few days. Thank You.


Ruth Newell May 18, 2012 @ 1:32 p.m.

Most welcome! Thank you for reading and I look forward to seeing you post that story soon, Jake.


nan shartel May 18, 2012 @ 2:29 p.m.

hot damn u talented bioche..u sure as f*ck left me out withering in the desert of my own inadequacy 4 a long time before u pulled these rabbits out of ur ephemeral hat

pardon me while i laugh uproariously for a while with the complete ecstasy of seeing u prance unfettered on the written page again


please don't leave us completely youngin and i'll meet u in the trees

it might make a pretty card


Ruth Newell May 18, 2012 @ 2:52 p.m.

Thanks for the poem and for the enthusiasm, Nanster. Didn't mean to deprive you.


nan shartel May 18, 2012 @ 3:11 p.m.

that's OK hunnypop...ur free to be urself

but i will say this...if i were 20 years younger and a man i'd RUN U TO GROUND...hahahahahahahahahaha

what the heck is the matter with these men out there anyway!!!


Ruth Newell May 18, 2012 @ 6:24 p.m.

Not a thing! Glad you liked the essay. :)


Jake Peterson May 18, 2012 @ 6:14 p.m.

Listen to the 'gossip girls' up there ^^ haha. You ladies bring a grin to my face.


quillpena May 19, 2012 @ 12:26 a.m.

Hope you found some sweet trees to hang your hammock, and, nan, I love to hear you talk like that--I mean write like that; a woman of so many facets. you, minx!


nan shartel May 19, 2012 @ 1:10 p.m.

thankee darlin.....this woman's talent makes me happy!!


richzombie May 19, 2012 @ 8:53 p.m.

you are - amazing - all that before noon !


kstaff May 21, 2012 @ 11:28 a.m.

Have often wondered if the advent of word processing for the masses made for more good writers who otherwise would be too lazy to do it... or just for great forests of mediocre writing. Probably a lot of both.

Nice to discover this one, though.


Ruth Newell May 23, 2012 @ 7:37 p.m.

Thank you, KStaff, and as always, ZMan.


Tallsharon May 26, 2012 @ 8:42 a.m.

I swear to god you channel my thoughts. I need to vote for you a million times.


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!