This morning, I dredged up the past.
I sat on the floor in my closet with two shoeboxes full of journals and combed through them, looking for one in particular. In the process, I came across a lot of dusty old memories: boyfriends gone bad, seething insecurities, angry prayers to God.
I had procrastinated diving into this part of my work. Because I knew it could potentially bring up some long-healed scars, exhibit a glaring reminder of my obvious imperfections. But when we moved to Kansas in January, I had unearthed from a box an essay I wrote 12 years ago – an essay that was good but had gone nowhere. I needed to revive it. And to do that thoroughly, I needed to revisit a particular corner of my past.
Diving head-first into our own history can be one scary endeavor. Among the nostalgic and forgotten memories quite potentially lurk some dark emotions, deep insecurities, experiences and feelings we’d rather keep deep and buried. It’s risky business to go there.
But sometimes, we have to. If we want to weave stories that are meaningful and raw with truth, we often have to dig deep. It can be rough. It can be painful. It can downright suck.
But you know what? I submit that, nine times out of 10, the effort and the risk will be wholly worth it. Sometimes you have to mine to get to the good stuff. Mining is unglamorous work at best. But a diamond never starts out smooth and beautiful.
We have to believe in our work so much we’re willing to do the hard work, take the big risk.
What is holding you back from going into that place? If it is fear, acknowledge it. Join the club. But at some point, take a deep breath and dive in. Hold someone’s hand if you have to. Chances are, by visiting those spaces where emotions run raw and deep, you will emerge with something worth holding onto.
*My interview with writer, colleague and friend Alissa Johnson, in which I share some thoughts about the writing life, balancing motherhood with writing, and the writing process of Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, was posted on Writing Strides yesterday. It also includes a beautiful testament to real friendship, and the bond that writing can weave. You can read it here.