Or, rather, I needed to write differently but I didn't know how. Sometime before my 30th birthday I realized I didn't like using my writing (or my marriage for that matter) as an escape pod from old hurts. It struck me as immature. Despite all my formal training, however, I didn't know how to change the attitude through which I had been regarding the world. My default setup is melancholic. When that's all you've ever known, it's a funk tough to look beyond.
And then, ironically enough, I read a favorite novel I hadn't picked up since high school. It was like my eyes had been uncrossed and I could finally see beyond myself. I could see more than despair, certainly, but I also could see more than beauty. Both sadness and happiness are made up of stark truths hidden within miasmas of emotion. For some reason at that point in my life, this favorite old story I re-read was able to help me find the solid bits and parts of happiness. And I began to write about them.
Since then I've gone through another dry spell in which my pens might be better used in a game of darts on an acoustic tile ceiling. But I've been encouraged by what Kathleen Norris, a poet, observed about prairie grass. She calls it "a perfect metaphor for the creative process." During times of drought, the grass "seems to die all the way to the roots..." Yet "it's a question of being patient and having faith that the writing process isn't dead, but rather just going through some kind of transformation" because, referring once more to the grasslands, "the minute there's moisture, it just springs green."
I appreciate your practical advice about working on your art, how it can be work and what that work can look like. I've rarely journaled formally but I jot notes on scraps of paper. I'm trying to keep my eyes open and uncrossed, to "remain," as Kathleen Norris concluded, "at least alert enough to receive what the world is trying to give" me."