Recently, my doctor changed one of my medications. I had an allergic reaction to the medication, not the least of which is dizziness. While I am much better, in fact getting better every day, the remnants of imbalance still hold me in their grip. With my morning cup of joe, I started thinking about balance – how something so matter-of-fact wields such profound effects in my life and my writing.
My writing desk waits for me beneath a window, looking out to my front yard and, across the road, a field. Last summer when my eldest brother, Gene, visited, he made a stack of stones, which I can see from this perch. When I spotted his work, I asked his wife, Ava, if she had a hand in the rock selection. As we sat on the front porch, looking at the stack, she replied, “Nope. That was all your brother.” She said he talked to her about balance and tension being the elements of a good stack. That’s my eldest sibling – knowledge is key to success in every endeavor. Well, that and a little bit of luck sometimes.
The top rock of Gene’s stack refuses to stay there. I don’t know if the whitetail deer knock it off when they walk by or what causes the top rock to fall. I spend a good deal of time replacing that rock, refusing to seek out a better balance to complete the piece. I could find another rock, one that would be more stable, one that would provide the counterbalance necessary, but I don’t. I don’t know why. I guess the reason might be that it is not my stack; I am only a caretaker of it.
Are we like this with our writing? Stacking words together, then sentences. Once the work is complete, why is it so hard to remove a stone that doesn’t fit, something that makes the whole piece a bit unstable, and not in a good way? We cannot afford to keep things that take away from balance. We don’t have that kind of time.
Writing is storytelling and knowledge building. Writing is a balance of tension – weight and counterweight. The writing life is a balance – what we writers do to pay the bills balanced against what we do to make room for the words inside us waiting to be written, to be molded, to be crafted into story. We give our readers places of drama and we give them places to rest, to process all the action. We craft stories.
Today, I will do these two things. I will edit a chapter of my memoir, looking for balance, both in structure and in action. I will vary sentence length (small and large stones). And I will send a thank you note to my brother, thanking him for that stack of stones to remind me he is here in spirit, when not in body, and to remind me all of life is a balancing act.
Pick an essay, story, chapter, or poem you have written and read it to see if it feels balanced, both on its own and within the larger body of work. If not, identify the place of imbalance and edit. Alternately, you could read a favorite passage from a book and identify the balance within that piece. (See Jump Start for Writer’s Block to see how to start an inspiring words notebook for such times as this.)
Stand on one foot; find your balance. Go outside; find three stones and stack them. Breathe deep, writer. Like the ladybug walking the lip of my coffee mug, find your balance, remembering this is a journey, not a destination. Some of your stones will tumble; find new ones; find the balance. Then, write some more.
Happy writing… ~T
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