• Elizabeth Bartasius

Bananas & Ampelmann, Phew: Getting Back Into Writing

This is what it looks like when I’ve taken a break and I’m trying to get back into writing.

I’m not sure what to write. Or how to write.

Maybe I’m not a writer after all? I wonder.

I know that’s not true, though.

I know if I just stick with the process, if I keep my pen flying across the page, writing anything that comes to mind, a gem will stumble out, or at least a beginning. A thread for me to follow, an Ampelmann sign to cross the street. I can look, see if I want to go there, or change direction. Like this:

What are all the things I could write about? If I was a writer, in my white linen writing dress, sitting at my new wood plantation desk, an ode to the Regeneration of an author catapulting into the next five years, what would I write about?

What would I write?

What would I write?

What would I write?

You see? I keep asking the questions over and over, until something comes.

Because nothing comes at first.

I don’t know what the fuck to write.

My thoughts feel stuck.

Aren’t there over-ripe bananas on the counter needing to be mixed into sweet bread?

Surely food is more valuable than me scribbling meaningless nothing?

But I know that question of what to write comes from the common foe: resistance.

An object in motion stays in motion, but an object standing still? A writer not having written? That’s tough. The toughest feat of all. The longer I wait, the more resistance I have to bust through.

You know this, don’t you? You’ve felt it with anything you care about, such as exercise, eating well, standing at the ledge of high dive, calling your best friend when there’s been a tiff and you know you owe them an apology. So I’ve learned over decades (Though I have to Re-Remember EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!) that I must stay and write.

Write what?


In this instance the words don’t matter. Bananas. Hunk of markers. Red. Cellophane. Lanterns at night. Swamp pools. Corroding. Twirling leaves, dry and cranky, blown sensuously. Underwear.

See? The words don’t matter. They are not the point. The point is only that we write them. That we muddle about. In doing so we break apart the stuck energy in our arms, wrists, fingers, keys on the keyboard and the ideas in our head that have woven themselves into a cobweb over the last weeks of “break.”

When we stretch, words inevitably begin to flow. We get back into the swing of things. Resistance gets the middle finger and our souls begin to remember:

Oh yes, we are a writer!

That’s right, we know how this goes.

We know what to do.

Before we know it, we’ve written 404 words of the 500 we made a pact to write. Minutes later we’ve written 774.

We can pat ourselves on the back, wipe the sweat off our forehead. “Phew, we did it.” We broke through the start. Even though, we are safe to put our pen down and head to the refrigerator for iced bush tea, we have not stopped, for we are now an object in motion. And when we sit down tomorrow for our 500 words, it’ll be a little easier, a little easier, and a little easier, until the process is rote.

Still, not for at least 21 days can we begin to seriously take stock of the words.

These first days of returning to 500 words are for us. Me and only me. You and only you.

The words are clumps; little arts projects that can be washed away by the incoming surf. So what if they are washed out to sea? They are permeable, breakable, dynamic and irrelevant.

Except the they aren’t irrelevant; because of the words we've written we are now writers in motion.

How to Start Your Own Practice, Again

Starting a writing practice is as simple as starting.

So start…

Start small…

Simply start…

I was gonna start in at 1,000 words a day, but I could feel my whole body tense at the thought. Consequently, I delayed my start for 5 days because of this high bar. Lower the bar when you resist. 500 words felt better to me. Doable. Something I could survive if all when to shit. I could write the word “word” 500 times if need be. I could! But I’ve never had to, not once in thousands of starts over three decades.

So, what you are resisting?

What do you want?

Can you do 500 words or 5 minutes of focused attention?

The only goal is being in motion - nothing else.