Turning my compost

Things are heating up over here.

After getting through the first quarter or so of my memoir (currently titled Irrepressible Spirit but subject to change), I took a break. I’d given it a first pass in editing, rewriting some chapters, beefing up (or perhaps overwriting) others and catching a few (but not all) typos. And then I put it out there for other people to read on Book Country, a website for writers to workshop their works in progress.

Two people gave me feedback – some good, some bad. With one, I ended up having a miscommunication in which I thanked him for his feedback and asked for more specific examples of where he thought my writing worked. I turned into an overeager puppy. He thought I was complaining. And there went that. The other had useful, if painful, advice, mostly involving point of view and the need to make the story read like fiction, even though it’s memoir — in terms of plot, conflict, motivation, etc.

And then I started feeling a tad overwhelmed at the idea I was sharing all this really personal stuff that, at the time, was quite often painful to experience. Because while I can now bear to look in my box of memories and research my past, going back and living in that time of my life again hasn’t magically become pleasant. It turns out that writing–sometimes a painful experience in and of itself–about a difficult time is hard!

So I decided to close the metaphorical box for a bit and began to question whether I should be digging around in there at all. Things in my compost pile were getting a bit too heated up for comfort.

On Sunday, I sat in church knitting a pair of socks (two at a time with yarn I spun myself!) and listened to the talk. It’s so nice when the speaker tailors what they have to say just for me. And even use metaphors that I can relate to.

Karen Hewett said that our spiritual life is a lot like a compost pile.

“The more you work it, the more it works. Working it is digging it up and mixing it up. Turning the outside to the in and the inside out. It mixes the ingredients and it heats it up and it breaks down a lot faster. That is the way spiritual life works. We all have hidden stuff inside of us, and the more we expose it and let it out and turn it around the more it is that it works and it breaks down.”

Oh. Yes.

Yes, that’s it.

OK. I’m not crazy to be doing this to myself.

Once my eyes stopped being leaky I put my head down and concentrated on knitting socks, mulling over what she’d said.

I need to keep writing. Through the discomfort. Through the surprise of finding my childhood friends all grown up with children of their own on Facebook. Through the distractions of real life — sick kids, marketing and fundraising clients that actually pay me for my time, volunteer obligations. I just need to keep writing. Because those words turn the compost. And eventually all the waste products of my life–the scraps, the leftovers, the rotten stuff–will turn into nutrient rich earth able to nourish my heart.