by Carla Kucinski

The timer just went off on the washing machine, alerting me the cycle is complete. It buzzes with such urgency that I almost peel myself from the couch. Almost.

Outside on the front porch, my dog stands in a patch of sunshine barking to come inside. She can’t make up her mind today if she wants to be alone or with family.

And every few minutes, my mind attempts to redirect my attention to the list of tasks and reminders I’ve been mentally compiling in my head all day: Buy more K-cups at Target, write thank-you note to Katie, pay electric and gas bill.

Like meditation, I acknowledge each sound, each thought, then let it go.

For now, these things will have to wait. There is no excuse not to write.

One week ago I made a commitment: Write every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. So on this Sunday afternoon, I’m honoring this pledge I made to myself by putting pen to paper. With a notebook on my lap, I sit on the couch in my study writing down whatever enters my mind, my pen gliding across the pages.

I love everything about this room. The creamy-white French doors that shelter me from the noises floating throughout the house; the long, rectangular windows that look out to my neighbor’s Bradford pear trees, fluffy and white; the last of winter’s leaves clinging to the bare branches, rustling in the breeze like sheets of paper; the soft, fleece blanket I drape across my legs to keep out the winter chill that lingers.

This is why I write.

Discovering the beauty in the finite, writing down the details, realizing your inspiration is right outside your window.

This is what keeps me sane and what makes me feel alive. During this past year, I lost sight of that. To put it simply: Life got hectic. In the span of five months, I switched careers, moved to a new house and got married. These were all joyous and grand things. But they were also exhausting.

This was the beginning of my writing famine.

Author Amy Tan says writing is a gift. “It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” Knowing this only made my guilt grow heavier as the year continued and my notebook sat in an unpacked cardboard box in the closet.

But writing is patient, too; it has always been there in the wings, waiting for me to return. And last Saturday, I finally did.

On that sunny afternoon, a few of my girlfriends gathered at my home for a writing workshop facilitated by local poet Jacinta V. White as part of One City, One Prompt, a national initiative where participants write on the same theme: Begin Again. The topic brought up feelings of loss, hope and renewal as we each shared our personal stories and then put that rawness on the page. That afternoon, cross-legged on the living room floor, I picked up my pen and filled the pages for the first time in 15 months. A poem poured out of me as naturally as breathing. I felt alive. I had come home.

At the end of the session, Jacinta asked each of us to write a commitment to begin something intentional. That day I vowed to begin writing again. That message is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep.

There is no excuse not to write.

The romantic in me believes in serendipity, discovering something you weren’t looking for. My serendipitous moment came that night in the lobby of the Carolina Theatre where I ran into Triad City Beat editor, Brian Clarey, who I hadn’t seen in probably three years. But here he was in his black suit and skinny tie, smelling faintly of cigarettes, telling me I should write a guest column for him. And now here I am tapping out this column on the keyboard, feeling full and fortunate and amazed by the inner workings of this world.

There is no excuse not to write.

Author Natalie Goldberg imparted those words of wisdom recently during a reading at a quaint Chapel Hill bookstore. Natalie is my she-ro, the author I always turn to for guidance and inspiration in my writing practice. Never did I imagine I’d meet her. And yet here she was, standing just three rows in front of me, reminding me of all the reasons why we must write.

There’s no excuse not to.

Carla Kucinski lives in Greensboro. She loves dogs, cake, reading and writing. 

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