Confessional

I am going to tell you a secret now …

At least once a week, some kind, well-meaning person asks me when I am going to write a book.  And inside, where you can’t see it, I flinch.

Now, the Current Me, the one you can see standing in front of you — she doesn’t flinch.  She stands there with her smooth face and her smile, and she says thank you, she is flattered, and it’s true … I am.

But the Old Me — the smaller, hollow-eyed version of myself who still lives inside me someplace — that version cringes and looks away, and mumbles something nobody can understand.

I don’t always like to talk about the reason why, but I’m going to.  And I’m going to do it now.

*

book1

A few years ago, I wrote a book — or at least a draft of one.  It was a book about my recovery from anorexia — which is the subject most people want me to say I’m writing about, when they ask me if I’m writing a book.

Like most good first drafts, this one was messy and imperfect, but it was truthful.  It was truthful enough to be the kind of thing that would make you sit up, startled, and shut your mouth.

And then I started editing the draft.

And suddenly it felt like I’d opened up a box of darkness inside my house, and the darkness filled up all the rooms and smeared its gray over the windows so I couldn’t see out.  I’d thought that the darkness was something I’d managed to contain a long time ago, but there it was, That Old Darkness, crashing around the bedroom in the middle of the night.

So I cut out words.

I cut out paragraphs, pages, chapters.

I scribbled the outline onto index cards and laid them all over the tables and floor, trying to figure out where the darkness was lurking so that I might excise it from the text.

And eventually, I figured out that the darkness was everywhere — in the editing process itself.

The same perfectionism that once had driven me to starve myself was now sitting there at the desk with me, wielding the red pencil — only the pencil looked like a knife.

*

I threw the book away.

*

If you’ve ever been in a 100-level creative writing class, you’ve probably heard some adjunct professor tell you to “write what you know.”

Which is good advice, to a point.

But I’ll tell you something that smart writers understand — something they know but don’t like to talk about.

Writing about the past, and especially any part of the past that’s deeply important to you?  I mean deeply, viscerally important? That is a dangerous business.

*

I told you last week that during the month of November, I was going to begin writing once again about my body — its frailty and strength.  Its astounding possibilities.

I was serious about that.

But you know what I won’t be writing about?

My eating disorder.

There are a lot of excellent anorexia memoirs out there, chronicling all the reasons why women (and men) make themselves small.  Why they choose for themselves that strange and deft disappearing act: now you see her, now you don’t.

As for me, though, I don’t want to go back to that old subject right now — the darkness and starvation and drought.

But you know what I do want to write about?

I want to write about the joy of living in this fragile suit of skin.  I want to go out and feel the wind in my hair and the chill on my cheeks — all the small capillaries blooming into a blush — and I want to tell you what that feels like.

I want to photograph myself half-asleep in the sun, drowsing, the yellow light warm on my eyelids.

I want to show you what it looks like to curl my fingers around a smooth river stone, or to touch a birch leaf to my lips, its skin speckled with autumn red.

I want to celebrate myself and sing myself — this Body Electric.  And if that’s something you’d like to read about … well, then, you’ll know where to find me.

selfportrait1

Let’s celebrate something beautiful together.

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70 thoughts on “I am going to tell you a secret now …

  1. hooklineandinkwell says:

    What a great dissection of your approach to writing…a friend of mine and I chatted about diary.journal writing, just last night, and we agreed that some things were impossible to go back and read because they were too dark…I think you are absolutely right: we have to be careful about revisiting (at least) the darker, personal things we write…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alexa Andreeff says:

    I love this and your outlook on things. I can relate with different eating issues that I just don’t want to go back there it is just terrible and boring to me to be honest. I quickly wrote about 3000 words about my eating issues and that was it just to get it out and I don’t think I will ever go into a full account ever again. I love reading your posts and think you are beautifully gifted with words! 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow!! You are such an inspiration!!! I can relate to the feeling of danger in writing about the past because that was the purpose of my old blog. I wrote long and hard about what hurt and sometimes, writing took me back to the darkest places I’ve been and the darkness seeped into my life and I’d bleed all over again… It was exhausting. It did help me accept the past but as long as I kept writing about it, I just couldn’t seem to fully let it go. I’m so happy that you have recognized what it does to you and you have chosen a different approach to celebrate yourself!! I’ll be here, often!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Argh…it is so difficult to comment…I recovered from anorexia, too….and…oh…your words are swords that hurts deep on my skin. I have been one many people asked you to write a book but to be honest I do not want you to write about your anorexia. Instead the beauty of your skin and the woods and sun and you mentioned you are going to write about will be perfect! Let us know as soon as you publish it! “You are beautiful no matter what they say”. I send you a train full of kisses

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree, I think you are beautifully gifted with words and that’s why I may have made the (perhaps a bit foolish) suggestion that you publish… but I also know writing (even if not directly about oneself), causes one to dig into one’s personal being and carries a lot of weight and requires a lot of emotional strength and sometimes the words written are taken from one in the act of “putting it out there,” which can be difficult, too. A part of me hopes you find a way to create a larger, longer record of the Body Electric, but I also know where to find the pebbles of gold in the swiftly moving stream of dancing light- right here on your blog! So thank you for continuing to write about what you want to, and not what you think others want you to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for that, friend.

      I really DO always take the suggestion as a compliment. I hope you know that. 🙂

      And I love that — pebbles of gold in a swiftly moving stream. Over the years I’ve become the kind of writer who really appreciates small moments: little sparks of wonder and magic, rather than the longer and more complicated things. So I’ll take the metaphor. Thank you.

      I always appreciate you being here, and your sincere encouragement is just the best.

      Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. They say write what you know because well, you know about it. But writing about what you love, what you want, what you experience day to day, what you dream about, how you feel, why you feel, when you feel – these are all what writers should or do write about, too. You are wise beyond words. Love this post and what you are saying. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The texts you write here are gold. Deeply sincere and just – brilliant, like poetry. The darkness that you’ve been through makes you the perfect ‘teacher’ for people recovering from all sorts of things and for anyone who could use a little more magic in their lives ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Heidi, thank you … I always hesitate to put this kind I thing out there, but it felt right last night, so I did.

      I appreciate your encouragement and support … Makes it easier.

      You’re beautiful! 🙂

      Like

  8. I’m reminded of a hit song Ricky Nelson had about 40 years ago – “I Went to a Garden Party”. It’s about a concert he gave where the audience demanded to hear his old hits, but he wanted to sing his new, more mature songs. Move on to who you are now, and write a new hit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely love that song, Karl, and the backstory… Always connected with it. It makes my day that you shared it with me. Maybe I’ll make it my theme song for this little season.

      Thank you. 🙂

      Like

  9. Ian G Gordon says:

    Hi, another beautiful piece of writing revealing much about the person you are. I know exactly what you are saying about editing, too much can pull the very soul from it. I often write about an experience quickly and go with instinct and from the heart. The only editing spelling and grammar,and boy, those pieces are powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I feel the same way. When I first started blogging, I wrote about my alcoholism, promiscuity and divorce. It served a purpose, but the writing helped me close the door on it. Now, I don’t want to write about it anymore. It’s not me anymore although it is my past. I want to write about the present and who I am in this moment – good and bad and indifferent.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is so true. We should celebrate what we are now rather than mope over the past. Whenever I try to write about the past, I end up overwhelmed with sadness and I go into depression. I think it is better, for those like us, to just not write about it. And as you put it, let’s celebrate the beauty of the present 🙂 This post was really encouraging. Thank you for that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ah, being in the present is wonderful, being in this space and appreciating all that surrounds you. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your past and how hard you have worked to overcome. Your writing is always so lovely to read. If you decide to only place your words in a blog, I’m glad you are sharing, its wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow – what a powerful post. I keep hearing everyone say that you should “write about what you love”, but sometimes, writing about painful experiences in therapeutic…*sometimes*.

    Ashley – thank you for sharing this deeply personal aspect of your life. I am only now, a diehard believer in living in the present (and sometimes in the future *staringly lovingly at Chanel bag vision board). There is no sense in beating yourself over the head with things that have happened in the past, but also, let them be a little guide for living your best life right now.

    If writing about your past causes you grief and you sense no good can come from it, just don’t. Hug yourself, forgive yourself and just be happy with all the good that’s happening for you right now.

    I’d give you a good, ol’ bear hug right now if I could. Instead, sending you a virtual Care Bear Stare (google it).

    xoxoxoxoxox,

    Dominique

    Liked by 1 person

  14. tabbyrenelle says:

    You remind me of this poet… she’s of the Chickasaw people:

    The Sandhills
    BY LINDA HOGAN

    The language of cranes
    we once were told
    is the wind. The wind
    is their method,
    their current, the translated story
    of life they write across the sky.
    Millions of years
    they have blown here
    on ancestral longing,
    their wings of wide arrival,
    necks long, legs stretched out
    above strands of earth
    where they arrive
    with the shine of water,
    stories, interminable
    language of exchanges
    descended from the sky
    and then they stand,
    earth made only of crane
    from bank to bank of the river
    as far as you can see
    the ancient story made new.

    Your stories are brave. And beautiful. As are you. I’ll be reading!

    xo,
    tabby 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Okay, let me try this again. Cat stepped on the keyboard.

    Bravo. You bring up so many interesting points. Writing about dark episodes of our lives can be like opening a Pandora’s box. My feeling has always been to remember my past, but not to dwell on it. It is important to learn and move on. Its part of our natural evolution. Looking at your photos, I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. You are radiant, much like the colorful leaves in your photos. Thankfully, it appears as if you have accepted yourself, And there is nothing more beautiful than that. The book you propose would be fascinating. Keep writing. Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lex … And I got a chance to stop by your place today. I love your interview with your daughter. It’s so true: if more of us could see the world this simply, it would be a better place.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to encourage me. You’re pretty beautiful yourself! 🙂

      Like

  16. winlinand2013 says:

    I see,
    Well, Ms. Fellers, if I may have permission to speak freely, you are a beautiful woman and I am certain in formal attire you are absolutely breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, thank you for that. I hope my husband thinks so too. 😉

      I’m just teasing, but in all seriousness, my constant hope is that I’m working on building a more beautiful and resilient soul, and I’m using my body in service of that goal … Like a scaffold is used to build the skyscraper within. I’ll write a blog post about that sometime, because it’s important to me.

      I like to think that while the rest of me is fading, the inner light gets a little brighter and more beautiful every day. 🙂

      Like

      • winlinand2013 says:

        Madam,
        Since you have broched this topic, I would, with all the honesty I can bring to bare on my response, assure you, from what writings I have read of yours, can assure you your beauty, with absolutely no question is birthed from a beautiful heart and a beautiful soul. I see a loveliness in you and your words that is a perfect marriage with the loveliness of your body, I see, without any question a most lovely princess. I saw this from the first time I saw your face and read your writing. I hope you accept this with the sincerity that I write this with, some words burn in my heart until I share them so please don’t be offended by what I have said as I don’t believe any of my words where offensive, they are simply a heart felt reaction I have toward you, you are a wonderful woman and I am moved by your writing and your presence.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. bAs says:

    I also followed that advice and put together something I called Bipolar Homeless Architect about the last six years of my life, but I can’t seem to bring myself to edit it. I think it may be the same reason you described. I think I am just going to keep blogging for a while and see what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get that.

      And I think sometimes it’s okay to just package the sloppy version of the work up, hand it to a friend or artist we trust deeply, and say: here. I can’t. Maybe you can.

      And if not, that’s okay too.

      Your heart knows what’s best. Enjoy blogging … And life!

      Thanks for being here and connecting with me a bit. 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you so much for sharing! I spent a few minutes clicking through this morning, and it sounds like you’ve had quite a journey.

      I’m glad you’re here processing your (fascinating) thoughts and sharing them with all of us.

      Have a beautiful day today! 🙂

      Like

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