Life Lessons from Basil the basil

“You need to stop not writing.”

-Anne Lamott

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop hosted by one of my heroes: Anne Lamott.

The first thing she said to us was, “You all need to stop not writing.”

I need to stop not writing.

I had been called out.

For those who read my last blog post (if you missed it, I’d love for you to give it a read), you already know my state of “not writing” and how I am now working hard to break out of it. What you may not know, however, is that I didn’t just stop writing on my blog; I stopped writing everywhere.

Up until I wrote that last piece, I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a journal or even a scrap piece of paper to scribble down my thoughts. I wrote a few articles for Libero Magazine, but that was about it.

Over the last year, I’ve silently watched as one of the biggest parts of me slowly withered away.

A few weeks ago I brought home a basil plant, which I promptly named Basil (BAZ-zle). I was convinced this time I would keep little Basil the basil alive.

When I picked him out he was lush and healthy.

Shortly after Basil came home with me, though, he was in desperate need of a haircut (aren’t we all, these days?) So I did some research and gave him his first ‘do. I have to say, he turned out pretty good! (Better than Zoey did the first time I cut her hair; she’s a little bitter.)

A few mornings later I noticed something: Basil was dying.

No longer the perky sight I looked forward to seeing each morning, he was slumped over and shrivelled up.

What had I done? Did I over-trim? (Zoey says most likely…she’ll never forgive me) Did I stress him out by cutting him too soon? Did he not like his new home?

So many questions and Basil offered no feedback.

After giving myself a verbal beating (hey, we all have things we’re working on), I finally did the only thing I knew how to do: I watered him.

I went out for the day and left poor Basil alone–probably for the best, as I have a way of loving things to death.

When I returned, I remembered my sad little green friend and went to check on him.

To my surprise, he was his old perky self again! That little guy stood prouder and taller than ever. And all it took was a little watering.

At this point, you may be thinking I’m about to draw a comparison by explaining that water to Basil is what writing is to me, but that’s not my point. I don’t need to write to survive.

I’m not the one who shrivelled up; my inner writer is.

Without proper care, my inner writer had reached the brink of death.

I need to stop not writing and, to do that, I need to stop neglecting the writer within.

To survive, my inner writer needs pruning (practice) and it needs water (inspiration).

What waters my writing? Well, there are a few things…

Reading is probably the most obvious one. After reading comes running. I find I get the most clarity when I’m moving. Watching the river is a new one I’ve discovered, too. I find it meditative. I also find inspiration in thought-provoking media such as podcasts and documentaries.

All of these things provide the essential care my inner writer needs to grow and thrive.

A plant can only survive for so long being underwatered and restored over and over again. This pattern will eventually kill it (trust me, I know).

To keep my inner writer alive in the long run, I can’t wait until it’s on the brink of death to revive it; I need to consciously and consistently tend to it.

So my question for you this week, friend, is this: what is inside of you that’s shrivelled up and could use a little water? What helps you thrive, but has wilted from neglect?

Maybe it’s art, or social connection, or music, or maybe, like me, it’s writing.

Whatever it is, you need to stop not doing it.

But in order to do that, you first need to start caring for it. What does it need?

When Anne Lamott told us we all need to stop not writing, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief because, while it felt like she was talking directly to me, I knew she was talking to everyone. This meant I wasn’t alone. I would love to hear about your experience and how this blog resonates with you. What is it that you are hoping to revive and how do you think you’ll get there? Please drop a comment because I’d love to connect on our shared experience–after all, isn’t that the point?

stop neglecting the writer within; life lessons from a houseplant
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