Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 22, 2010

The Gift of Writing Time

A few days ago so many daffodils bloomed around M’s house that surrounding yards didn’t look nearly yellow enough. We were meeting for a walk, but she suggested we climb a mountain. She put her dog in the backseat and we drove a short distance to the base, talking about our families.

As we followed a path between trees, our conversation turned to books and writing. M stopped writing some years ago when the publishing process became too painful. I can understand, but she is brilliant, and it felt like a loss. Now she spoke about writing again for a few hours a few mornings a week. I hardly wanted to breathe as she talked, just quietly hoping she’d continue. She described her mornings with paper as sacred time, writing just for herself. And when her thoughts drift to someone reading her work, commenting, evaluating, maybe wanting to buy it or not, she tries to go back to this sense that what’s important is being with her thoughts and words. Nothing else.

Coming down the mountain, she stopped to show me our state flower, trailing arbutus, or what’s sometimes called mayflowers. Evergreen leaves with white blossoms, small, and endangered. She had me bend down to smell the tiny blossoms, both salty and sweet.

I like the idea of writing as a sacred time. Sometimes I make myself sit in a chair. Just do it, as they say. Be disciplined. Be tough. But I prefer to think of the time as a gift to myself, hours that are sometimes lonely, but in which anything can happen. It’s not to say that we don’t want what we’re working on to be published. Of course we do. But thoughts of a world we can’t control only distracts from what I begin with: a part of a story or an image or a few words, which I turn over to see something entirely new.

Some days writing feels like a chore, but there’s always the opportunity to be surprised. Writing poetry, I draw from what I know and what I don’t know. It’s kind of wonderful to see what I thought I believed change. What once seemed complex may look simple, and what seemed simple turns complex. There’s no falling down on my knees or chanting and rarely candles because I’m kind of shy about what seems at least a little bit holy. But I give a quiet nod to words and silence to show my vast respect. And sometimes words quietly nod back.



  1. You’re my hero. That is all.

  2. Beautiful post. Thinking about publication can be more than stressful, but it comes back to loving this process, even with the chore days, and needing to be doing it no matter what. I’m so glad she’s finding time for it again.
    My favorite written words this week: “…so many daffodils bloomed around M’s house that surrounding yards didn’t look nearly yellow enough.” Gorgeous.

  3. I have gifted Thursdays to myself, as writing days. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to each and every Thursday, knowing it’s a day for me to do what I love.

  4. Thank you for this sacred post. It settled me right into my writing time today–the first one in a week.
    I hope your writing days are full of surprises, words, and silence.

  5. I believe we find the sacred in the ordinary–candles or no. So when Lorraine called this a sacred post, I nodded in agreement. With her, and with all that you’ve said. xo (lol, I’ll resist using my flickering candles avatar.)

  6. Oh, and I’m glad to see you here again, Lorraine!!

  7. That’s what helps me when I worry too much about the future of publishing and my own future in it: remembering that for years I wrote without anyone else reading it, wrote for the sheer joy of it. It’s why I center my blog around writing more than publishing, to keep reminding myself of that.

  8. And you are my hero, too, Jama.

  9. Thank you, Becky!

  10. That is so great to hear, Angela! I hope yesterday was a very good Thursday.

  11. Oh, Lorraine. I hope you had a good writing day. And thank you for the blessing!

  12. The sacred in the ordinary is the best. And I love your flickering candles, though roses are good, too!

  13. I think all of us have to find ways to remind ourselves of what’s important, and your way sounds very wise. Good luck with it all, Jenn.

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