And I Saw Sparks.

I stopped writing once for several years.

I don’t remember exactly how or why I stopped. I don’t remember when or where I stopped, and surely I didn’t know that the last thing I wrote that I loved, would be the last thing I’d write that I’d love. For years. My friend, who has eight-year-old twins, mentioned the other day that she doesn’t remember the last time she held her kids in her arms, in the air. They got too big. It simply stopped. You never know the last time you do something, that it will be the last time you do something.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t gone forever.

I declared my journalism major pretty late in the game, and I was often doing 5-6 articles, essays and papers a week for three whole semesters. I was fried, but that doesn’t mean I stopped completely. I just stopped professionally. I went into Inside Sales, due to a strange chance job that gave me more than I can even say, but the writing had to go somewhere. It got funneled into emails to friends, family members, even strangers. The best was making a new friend at work who was also a writer. We’d toil away at our sales jobs, and maybe even like it, but we always just assumed we were meant for bigger and better things. I mean, isn’t that what being in your 20’s is all about? My big dreams weren’t just dreams. They were facts.

Then I got fried again. I was in love with a guy 3,000 miles away and I was sick of pretending I wasn’t a writer or photographer or whatever the heck I wanted to be. So I took two lunch breaks a day, came in late, left early, stopped answering emails promptly, and showed myself the door of that job. I moved to California – which is probably the most beautiful and awe-inspiring place I know, and maybe my brain was too busy taking it in, the way the other parts were. I simply stopped writing. I stopped photography. I worked at Trader Joe’s and as an Innkeeper. The words and the photos all got funneled somewhere, but instead of pouring out wherever they could find an opening, they just sort of got stuck into a sludge. Nowhere to go.

I wrote most of our wedding vows in San Francisco, but I had to go to the top of a mossy hill to do so. I had to make the words come. I wrote the emotional parts of our wedding program on another hill in San Francisco. It was easier, but not easy.

Before then and after then, writing and photography are instinctual things. I can plan them and outline them and Pinterest them and write them down, but it all boils down to the sparks. That’s when I know it’s ancient parts of me, and everyone else, built to do certain things. For if we don’t, and it can’t funnel out somehow, it gets stuck as a strange and spark-less sludge. And then it’s harder to get it out. You’ll freakin’ find a way, but it will not be easy. I shouldn’t have to ask it to come.

Forever and always, it should ask ME to come. Obediently, I follow. I know not where I’m headed.

I wasn’t taking photographs at this time either. I wasn’t even an empty shell. I found joy (and anxiety) in other things. Maybe my eyes and brain and heart just had to see it all play out for a too-long while. I funneled some of it out in some other ways, and it just sort of settled in the middle and waited for me. It would have been an ok life, and maybe even a good one, but that’s the same thing you say about any path you didn’t choose, when you know how powerfully the spark sits – in the path you did choose. I would have felt like something was missing. Instead, it asks me to come. And I follow. Without question.

What I know now is that it will always come back to retrieve me. I may always fear it going away, like it did for a few years, but in between the birth of two children, this here blog, a photography business, and new, pending outlooks on life, I don’t worry so much anymore. I’m here three to five to seven days a week anyway. Sometimes there’s sparks. Sometimes there’s not. It’s ok. I wait and I watch and sometimes I give up enough to distract myself with anything and everything else, until it happens. In the morning, or in the night. It comes for me. It comes back for me. And I follow. No matter where we’re going.

That’s the place I ought to be.

It may not be what you think it will be. This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “Sometimes, I wonder about my writing. I keep on and on because…” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin: HERE.

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  1. Once again more we just have in common, as yes I totally stopped writing for a bit in my younger days, but happily I have been writing now for the last few years and I am right where I belong, too 🙂

    1. Exactly! And I love the twists and turns, and never knowing what will happen next. Meant for this.

  2. I totally understand the sparks! I know my best writing comes sometimes in the middle of doing something mundane like vacuuming. I have to put down what I’m doing and get it out. I love that you’ve given that inspiration a name 🙂

  3. Beautiful description of the need to write. It feeds the soul when it is what it’s meant to be. I miss my sparks and I wish they would come back.

  4. You certainly have had an interesting heartfelt journey in your life, Tamara! Not surprising that you have become the deep person that you are.

    I can’t relate my writing to what you say, but it does apply to my being an artist, as I wanted that so much as a child, but it took many years for me to reach that dream.

    There is a line about being a pilot: As a pilot, there are really only two bad things that can happen to me:
    One day I will walk out to my aircraft knowing that it is my last flight, or, one day I will walk out to my airplane not knowing that it is my last flight…

    1. I hope the interesting heartfelt journey continues! And I must say that it seems like you’ve had your own!
      The pilot line breaks my heart.

  5. I just said to my 8 yo the other day, when did you get so big I couldn’t pick you up anymore? Those precious moments slipped away without warning.

  6. I once was a writer too, early and I stopped. Writing in school was terrible and then I lost confidence. I wonder what was the thing that triggered me to start again, because it was like a whole decade went by! It’s crazy! P.S. I love this post and everything about it, come link it up at the Happy Now if it feels right. Hugs and have a great weekend!

    1. I feel like it was half a decade for me. It’s strange that it leaves, and strange/happy that it comes back. I hope it never goes away again!
      I’ll check out the linkup!

  7. I stopped writing for a long time, too, so I understand exactly what you mean. I loved it, wanted it, worked for it, dreamed of it, and then . . . all of a sudden I realized I hadn’t done it for a while. And you are absolutely right: when the was right for me to write again, it all came back and felt natural again.

    I really needed to read this right now. I’ve been struggling a bit with some of my writing, maybe pushing myself in the wrong direction with it. This makes me think . . . maybe it doesn’t feel natural because I’m not writing what feels “right” to me.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    1. Yes, exactly! It was all I thought about for years. Then I just gave up on it for a spell and I didn’t even consciously do so. There wasn’t really any heartbreak – just distractions.
      I always come back, though.
      I hope your writing struggles get better! I’ve been having photography struggles lately.

  8. I stopped writing, but it was because my confidence was shot. I’m learning a lot about myself, learning that you can attack, my looks, my intelligence, and even my family and I know who I am. Attack my work, and I’m a shell of a person, like there’s nothing left to live for if my work doesn’t live on. I’m so glad you are writing now.

  9. Aw SW, you did it again. It does come for us, doesn’t it? It whispers our names and lights us on fire. Thank gawd for that persistence. Also, I think breaks are good – maybe even necessary for us to realize how much we love the creative life. So glad you write and photo. And that I know you.

    1. I agree. The persistence means everything. It’s, I guess, how you separate what is really meant to be here, from not.
      I’m really happy I know you! Like.. in person!!

  10. Long long long before blogging I stopped writing and I thought it just wasn’t in the cards for me. But that spark was missing, no matter how many other things I was good at. I love this post, poetically written with intertwined photos telling another story.

    1. I can’t even imagine you not writing. So how’s that??
      And yes, you always notice the photos telling the stories – sometimes the same story, and sometimes very much not. But all connected.

  11. I’ve only just gotten comfortable with taking breaks and it really is so necessary and self-loving. Good for you. And right you are that likely, “It will always come back to retrieve” you. What a great way of thinking about it. I adore your happy photos too, by the way! 🙂

    1. I love that you call it necessary and self-loving! I wish I had a better hang of it, and to know that it’s not necessarily something I’ll fall too comfortably into, to ever come back out. I would always come back to it! Or vice versa.

  12. I couldn’t think of a better description of a writer not writing, or a photographer not snapping pics; “For if we don’t, and it can’t funnel out somehow, it gets stuck as a strange and spark-less sludge.” Great description, Tamara. Haven’t you had an interesting decade in your 20’s? Maybe you needed a break from writing and that was your way of taking it. Clearly, you’re meant to write and take pictures!!

    1. I guess it was an interesting decade! I figured everyone is due one and I sure hope I have many more. I do miss certain parts of youth, though. The starry-eyed parts.
      I guess the 30’s are even better in some ways.

  13. There was a time when I stopped writing. I was feeling defeated and like I wasn’t good enough. But then I realized that writing is what helps keep me sane. I love it too much to ever give it up again.

  14. I stopped writing for the longest time – pretty much from the time my children were born, until I started my blog two years ago. A few letters here and there, but that was it. I finally realized that I needed to get back to it, to save myself from drowning in the anxiety in my head. Hopefully I won’t take a break like that again!

  15. I love your writing story – how your life took you there and then away and then back again. I think even if I stopped blogging, I would never stop writing. It will always come back to me, too.

  16. Thank you so, so much for the reminder, at just the right time, to keep focussed on the spark, whatever is making it shine at the moment. I’m glad to know there’s life beyond writing, and glad to know it’s something which comes back, too, even if you think you’ve lost it.

  17. I stopped writing and creating for a long time while I was trying to figure out “who I was”. I didn’t realize then that it was a part of me. It was my thoughts, my outlet, my journals, my poems, my modern fairy-tale stories about the girl I wanted to be! I found that part of myself again, after I had kids, and I am glad that I did! I saw my spark.

  18. Ah… reading your writing/photography history was just so cool. I LOVE how you said it should ask YOU to come and not the other way around. WOW. I know those moments, that feeling well. I also know when I am forcing it to obey and come despite it resting in a *creating* phase deep within. Pushing the gift doesn’t work. I’ve had seasons with no evidence of it existing, and yet- it’s always been there, much like yours.

    1. I think I remember reading an interview with Tori Amos and she said it similarly. Her songs come to her and sometimes they tell her they don’t want to be on a specific album! That’s very Tori-like.

  19. Love your photos of all that is around you Tamara! Like writing I think they are great to remember the big and little moments that are in our lives. I spend time taking a lot more photos than writing, because it is a lot quicker for me and it helps me to remember how many blessings exist in life.

    1. Thank you! I Love your take on how and why I used them. You nailed it.
      I had an ex who could play piano and french horn. He was good at both, but one came more naturally and one was harder. I always think of that with my two things, because I need to give them both attention, and they have their pros and cons for different reasons, based on my personality.

  20. Yes, this is where I’m at right now. I’m a bit fried from blogging three times a week and writing sales copy for my book and newsletters and freelance articles. I need to funnel that energy for now through my jewelry, which is flourishing. It never has come naturally to me that way it does for you In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s in a grad program at Harvard that I even acknowledged that I was a good writer. I’m glad you’re writing is here for now, because I truly adore reading your posts!

    1. That’s so excellent! As long as something is flourishing, I’m happy. I would love all of it to flourish, but in truth, as long as it’s none of it.
      You’re so gifted with your jewelry.. that won’t ever change.
      I love that you discovered your writing at Harvard. I still haven’t had the guts to call myself a good writer, but even calling myself a writer was a huge deal. I did it to a BlogHer editor and she was amused, I think.

  21. It’s weird that I enjoy blogging but I’ve never considered myself as someone who likes to write. Before blogging I never wrote much outside of work, but I did write quite a lot at work. Plus, I went to a liberal arts college so I wrote a lot in school too. So I guess it’s just something that has become part of my life.

  22. I like the thought about how we try to be happy when we know our spark is sitting somewhere else. There are certainly seasons to life, and I think that is ok… can’t always do everything at once, and it is perfectly fine to have shifting priorities. At the same time, if we have a joy that we avoid for convenience or money or duty, that is a shame. God wants us to be responsible, but also to love! That is a big gift that He doesn’t want us to miss out on.

  23. An excellent piece of writing Tamara. When something is in us, it’s in us. It may go undercover for a bit, but it’s always there, just under the surface.

    I love your photos (as always). The happiness on your children’s faces is priceless.


    1. Thank you so much. It’s so true – always there, waiting. Or running away for bit, but meant to come back.
      The kids were having a rare snuggle moment! No bickering at all!

  24. I definitely think breaks are necessary and eventually the page is waiting for us when we return. I find that incredibly uplifting and forgiving. xo

  25. Yes! Writing can be forced, but it’s so much better when there are sparks. I think a lot of people go through dry spells with the things they love. I’m so glad that you found those sparks again with writing and photography.

  26. Oh how I love this! One, I like learning new things about you – Trader Joes & being an Inn-keeper. Two, I love the spark analogy. Love, Love, Love. But I hate when I don’t get any, which seems to be happening a lot lately. Also your sales job and not being bale to write kind of reminds me of my life now, with the accounting. Finally – my fellow San Fran Lover – I’m going there in June for a very long weekend with my husband. We’re celebrating his 50th. Yikes!

    1. Oh girl, I have so many job stories! Stay tuned for more of them because I can never tell them enough.
      I hope accounting is giving you some pleasures too. I realize how hard it can all be to balance sometimes – work, life, passion, etc.
      50 is the new 30, I say!

  27. Writing and creating helps me to get out of my head. I wish I would have never stopped writing and creating, I think I would have been better in the past.

  28. I love learning about how you came to be a writer!
    I never was one and never intended to be until I destroyed my back and lost my marbles.
    I’ve lost my voice over the last year and I can’t seem to get back into it. It’s been incredibly frustrating to say the least. It’s my lifeline.

  29. Your finish the sentence posts are always SO GOOD! There was one year all of my writing was in the form of letters to Iraq, 2003. Letters to War, back before they hated us over there. Back when they thought we could save them, but we couldn’t. Ok, sorry, I didn’t mean for that to go to the sad place..

    1. Thanks!! I love FTSF. As for you taking this to a sad place, I was really happy to hear about your 2003. That’s so interesting and hopeful and sad and beautiful.

  30. I stopped writing when I first got married — life just GREW. Too big. There was too much, how could I fit words adequate enough onto the page? But I woke up one day and realized I felt FULL – too FULL. Like constipated filled, not the good kind. And I didn’t know why I felt all out of sorts. Until I found the box of journals and poems, and it hit me: get back to You. Create! Unpause. And there have been a few more pauses since The Great Begin Again, but that’s okay – like you say, it always comes back. Or, I create in a new way. New inspirations come and feed the whole. Pour into the well some new life, until it all bubbles over again. And it’s always good — because Life is beautiful and my well is brimming with good things. Hopefully I leak gratitude. 🙂

  31. Some days I wish I’d started earlier as a writer – but as I think on it, I wouldn’t have had anything but fluff to write about. I would never have met my ex. I would never have become me. I would be someone else. Who probably wasn’t as good a writer as I am now, because I didn’t have those experiences. (Hey…you were deep…I had to be deep).

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