Contests · On Writing


I used to take my laptop, my journal and a stack of poems to be typed out everywhere I went. Like, literally. I saved up and bought this gorgeous black leather book bag (‘cuz every writer should own a leather book bag, right?) to put all my jazz in, and I took it with me everywhere.

I took it to my ‘day job’, which had nothing to do with writing, for one. And for two, I was too busy working to even open it. It would sit on the floor, leaning up against the leg of my desk…patiently waiting for me to pay attention. A quick glance. A yearning sweep of fingers across the front. I gave it nothing but internal want…

Yeah…talk about baggage.

I carried this bag around filled with my dreams – literal and figurative. Inside this bag was my laptop; my finished YA novel nestled sweetly in its magical inner-workings along with hundreds of pages of other writing – poetry, plays, screenplays, articles, blogs, unfinished short stories, etc.. Not to mention saved blog posts on agents, the writing biz, writing contests and ‘to-do’ lists miles long. My writing life was in this bag.

And I truly believed that if I carried it around with me then my dreams were always with me. It was a tangible reminder of what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, what I wished I was do-ing while I was everywhere in my life.

Heck. This bag got heavier and heavier, as baggage often does become. You can imagine how the sight of one’s dreams leaning against a desk leg, slumped on floor, hanging off one’s shoulder can also make it extremely difficult to do anything else. How can one possibly get through an energy-sucking, completely uncreative ‘day job’ as her sweet dreams were a reach away? Literally.

I even carried it with me to the hospital day-in-and-day-out while my grandfather was dying. Like I’d be able to write while I was with him…maybe tap a few lines of a poem while he slept. Yeah – there was no way. My bag, and all the dreams it held inside, became WAY TOO HEAVY.

I had to leave the bag.

Twenty-thirteen is about letting go of old ways. Of old ways of being that caused more grief than joy – even if I didn’t realize it for over thirty years. I’ve carried a back pack or a bag with me for as long as I can remember. And this is on top of my ‘purse’. If you look through my bag collection, you’ll find that all of my bags are big enough to carry a journal and a novel. All. Of. Them.

So how was I to change this way of being that I’d told myself was my connection to my writing life? To all my writing dreams? To all the things I wished I was working on every day – even when there was no way I could actually be doing them?

I had to make a scary choice. A risky choice. A life-changing choice. I had to choose to live in my moments – and here’s the kicker – even if they weren’t writing related.

I had to let myself let go of the writing so I could accept and receive and be grateful for whatever moments I was actually living. Because I was filled with angst all the time, thinking about all the writing I wasn’t doing. And I was only semi-THERE in my life. And then, when I’d finally sit down to write…I was exhausted. My confidence was buried somewhere in the back yard. I felt like I’d missed all the ‘right’ times to write earlier in the day.

Hemingway writes: Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day…it you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start…As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that. (From Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips, pg. 42)

I really took this information to heart. And I to life.

Now, I don’t take it with me. I write when I write. I write when the time comes (whether it is planned or whether it brilliantly opens up for me – like now), and I’m ready to write now. Always. I do my best not to worry. To wish I was writing. I’m doing my best to be fully in the moments of my life. The words won’t go away. The characters won’t disappear.

And the time opens up. It really does. I bet if I compared the amount of time I spent writing last year to the amount of time I’m writing so far this year, the amounts are comparable.

It’s not easy. I find I’m going to my ‘idea’ notebook more often these days so I can write down ideas and not forget them. Re-visit them lated. When it’s time to write.

Ah. And the dreams have not died. Nor have they dwindled. They’ve grown. Become more focused. More realistic. More attainable. And my confidence is in the house now. Dug up out of the muddy yard. Sometimes, it’s even on my lap. Who knew?

Do you take it with you?


I had to look at the difference between bring and take to write this blog. Did I get it  right? Write the correct use of bring and the correct use of take in the comment section and you could win this:

6 thoughts on “Don’t Take It With You – And CONTEST ALERT! FREE WINNINGS!

  1. Hi Vanessa:
    this is the first time I have written anything where I had to think about things other than the death of our son. It’s probably not what you are looking for but I thank you for channeling my thoughts in another direction.
    as always,
    When I think of the word bring and take I go to the dictionary and start writing:
    You are right. When you carried your black bag with all of its contents you carried it around to bring about your desired accomplishments. If you left the bag, lowered it to the floor, it would suggest to you your disinterest so you fetched it off of the floor whenever possible, and began to mentally encourage yourself to accomplish finishing your book to launch on the market. You revived your writing and your senses were nutured.
    to bring: bear, carry, convey
    to bring about: to accomplish
    to bring down: lower, decrease
    to bring forward: introduce, suggest
    to bring in: yield, fetch, produce
    to bring off: achieve, accomplish
    to bring on: encourage
    to bring out: launch on to the market
    to bring round: revive
    to bring up: raise, nuture
    Vanessa: when I think of take:
    I see you grasping your black bag, to remind yourself to copy down in verse your latest thoughts. But then you objectes to you usual habits and withdrew from your routine. You put down your bag. You made yourself comprehend what you are trying to achieve. You had to force yourself to become detached from your black bag. So you enlist all of your powers to extract yourself from carrying your black bag. You have forced yourself to assume this responsibility. So you begin your day. You pick up your keys, your purse and your idea book as you depart out your front door.
    to take: grasp
    to take after: to favour, to copy
    to take against: object to
    to take back: withdraw, recant
    to take down: put down
    to take in: comprehend
    to take off: detach
    to take on: enlist, engage
    to take out: extract
    to take over: assume responsibility for
    to take start, begin
    to take: up: pick up
    to take off: departure


    1. Wow! Bev, your word bring tears to my eyes and inspiration to my soul. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share. My condolences to you and your family for the loss of your son. Thank you for having the courage to let your thoughts move to the bring vs. take definition. You’ve written far beyond what any dictionary could write. Thank you!


  2. I really like your blog, Vanessa. The black bag is a great metaphor. I have a raspberry shirt with huge sleeves
    (like that Seinfeld episode about the puffy shirt). I bought it a long time ago and never wore it. It hangs at the
    back of my closet, a poet shirt. I bought it at a small boutique and the woman there said that several musicians
    had purchased the same shirt. I haven’t tried it on in a long time, I’m afraid it would look ridiculous! (but I can’t
    get rid of it, either!)
    Seeing as I am currently reading, A Year of Writing Dangerously, it seems that your blog could easily become a
    book about writing. A thought.


    1. Thanks for the suggestion. You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book about ‘writing’…I’ll definitely keep this dream alive through the blogs on this site…one day!
      I love your poet shirt already! Definitely don’t get rid of it!


    1. Thanks, Alison! Indeed, you are so right – writing is a constant process of building up and letting go. I’m really ‘getting’ this fact these days!


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