Think of yourself as a verb. It's freeing.
Eleven Novak once said, “Balance is a verb, not a noun.” My character from Radiant Shimmering Light has some valid points.
It’s interesting how noun-ifying a verb turns it into something we’re trying impossibly to attain because in actuality, it’s only a transient state we can experience.
Author Sidura Ludwig ends her recent Instagram Takeover making this same point. She reminds us that writing is a verb, not a noun.
We talk about writing like it’s the complete assemblage of letters and sentences. When we say we want to work on our writing, we mean the language and the plot and the contents of the finished piece.
“Writing-as-verb” flips it around for me.
I’m reminded that language is not the experience.
It’s just the map to the experience.
Like the map of Killarney Park I look at when we go canoeing.
Language shows us where the water is. The altitude of the terrain. Where to find a campsite.
What language is not: the pink and grey granite glittering in the sun. The white crests of wavelets on the horizon. The sensation of gliding through water in curves of wood covered in canvas. The tickle of a dragonfly when it rests on my thigh.
Words take us into an experience.
The experience itself is untranslatable.
“I too, am untranslatable.”
— Walt Whitman
As a thought experiment, I started saying to myself, I’m not a writer. I am writing.
I can be writing anytime. Writing doesn’t have to fix my identity. I can do it one day and not the next. Fine!
Labeling myself a writer can give me a feeling of power. But it can also open me to anxiety: the anxiety of living up to that identity. Of writing a certain way.
Writing, on the other hand, is a dynamic state I can enter when I choose.
It helps me know that everything changes, including me. Including my writing.
Our writing is ever-changing. Like our universe, the world of writing is never fixed. It’s actively happening in participation with writers, readers and the culture at large.
It’s been a few weeks. This experiment in verb-ification brought me to a place of more fluid, active engagement with my writing, as well as everyday life.
I managed to judge myself less for doing something other than writing.
When I let go of “I am a writer” or “I am a novelist,” I get closer to that untranslatable experience of the -ing. Like I was just in the water, paddling away, simple as can be.
I felt a great sense of freedom.
And here’s the paradox: it’s from that felt sense of freedom, inexplicably, that I find my desire to be writing.
Let me know if this shift resonates with you in the comments below.
Photo credit: Ian Keefe on Unsplash.