Friday, January 6, 2012

Empty Spaces

A new year brings a sense of hope, a fresh start, and time to reflect on our lives. Lately, I've been reflecting on why I write. Last year, I took a much needed hiatus from sharing my writing. After decades of searching to find my place in the world of writing without success, I needed a new approach. I wrote a few blog posts, some poems and stories for my students, and newsletter articles for school, but I didn't submit anything to publishers.

I stopped submitting, but I didn't stop writing. I wrote just about every day, but it was for my eyes only. I wrote poems, essays, stories, and letters. I never once had writer’s block, and I didn’t worry if my words were good enough. My writing had purpose and meaning. I wrote about my childhood and how it made me who I am today. I wrote about being a frightened and lonely teenager. I wrote about falling in love, the rewards of raising my sons, caring for an aging parent, and my own fears of growing old. The more I wrote, the more I understood that writing is not just my hobby, it’s my way of life. I write when I’m happy. I write when I afraid, when I’m lonely, angry, confused… I write to remember, to release, to recover. Writing fills the empty spaces in a way nothing else can.  The way I think about myself as a writer has changed. I'll write more about that in a future post. But, most importantly, I have learned that for me, the only story I can write is my own, and maybe my story will fill the empty spaces for someone who reads it. 

"Every Craftsman" by Rumi speaks to the ways people try to fill the empty spaces. Here are the first seventeen lines. You can click on the link to read the rest of the poem.

Every Craftsman

I've said before that every craftsman
searches for what's not there
to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don't think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting you net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

My search for the poem led me to Writing and Healing,  a wonderful blog that inspired this post. It's worth checking out!
For more poetry check out Teaching Authors.


  1. I love your description of your year of writing. I have come to so many of the same conclusions about my own writing.

  2. My craft is teaching, and while I don't agree that a student is an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge, I DO see that teaching is a way of looking for small empty spots in a learner's existing knowledge, spots that I can fill so that more knowledge can be built on and on and on. Like finding the perfect spot for a brick or a stone in a wall.

  3. Hi Ruth- It all seems so simple, doesn't it? So why did it take me so long to figure out where I belong? : )

    Mary Lee- I agree with you about teachers looking for the empty spots to fill with knowledge. I try to do that for my students too. It's not always easy with middle school students who think they have all the knowledge they need! : )