Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting on With Writing

On Monday, I announced that "doing more writing" was my focus goal for this week.  Not very specific, you say.  And you are right, and I am, that I need to describe something that I can recognize when it does, or doesn't happen.  What would "more writing" look like?

Having carried the idea of being a writer with me from childhood, I have a plethora of romanticized notions of what that means.  I first externalized my writing persona by creating a warm-weather garret above my family's garage, separated from my bedroom by a small second-story sunporch.  I dragged a worn armchair, a rough table and a wooden chair into the barren space.  For light, I had the single bulb on a pull string.  I was Jo, in Little Women--without the hardship of a Civil War, and the single-minded effort that produced her serial stories, the "art" she traded for money.  I wrote mostly poetry, to some notice.  The only serious character I created was myself.

When I was in graduate school, and engaged, more or less, in writing a dissertation, I drifted back to writing poetry.  I submitted poems, and published a few.  I savored the "personal" rejections that encouraged me to send more.  I hit the Poetry Slam scene, with some "success."  I was accepted to my state's Fellowship of Poets, and began to make time for writing workshops and groups and conferences.  I dreamed of writing a novel, but disciplined myself not to begin until I had finished my Ph.D.  

Not finishing was something that took years.  It wasn't over easily, or clearly.  And when it was done, finally, there was a mourning period for my doctoral self, and then immersion in the drama of my expanded and extended families.  I wrote sporadically, and submitted only a couple of commentaries intended for public radio.  Eventually, I completed drafts of two children's books, some decent poems, several essays, a song, and the beginning chapters of a novel.  When my husband would identify me as a writer, I would resist, saying that a writer writes.  I was instead, like my father before me, someone who wanted to write.

My shelves are filled with books that belong to such a person, a would-be writer.  I have spent many years preparing myself to write.  And only in these last months, since beginning to write this blog, do I begin to feel entitled to the name.  I am a writer, because writing is something I do.  Regularly.  And with conviction.

I have surprised myself by the tenacity with which I have kept this new commitment.  All the usual roadblocks have shown up over the life of Put it to Bed, but I have clambered over them, driven around, and even blown up a few.  I want to do this, and for once, I am allowing myself to put something I want first.

But now it's time to grow this part of my life.  I acknowledged in reading what I wrote yesterday about procrastinating that I don't procrastinate about everything, and that, in fact, I might seem quite productive to others.  But what makes me a procrastinator, in my own view, is having spent a lifetime not getting down to writing--not giving this dream, and my talent, its due.  

As I try to "operationalize" my focus goal this week, I am torn between plunging back into my novel; sending off my children's book manuscript; making a regular time to write poetry; and resurrecting my abandoned practice of "morning pages," Julia Cameron's (The Artist's Way) recommendation for dealing with writer's block.  

In the past, morning pages have sometimes been the only thing I was writing in my long dry periods.  While I kept to the practice religiously, sometimes for a year or more, the unpublishable tablets and notebooks filling and accumulating, it was not very satisfying as my only outlet.  And my perfectionistic demons dominated.  Julia said three pages, and by God, I was going to do three pages, even if the pages I'd provided myself were outsized, even if it took 45 minutes or so to fill them (instead of the prescribed 15 minutes), even if carpal tunnel syndrome made my writing hand numb before I was finished.  

But I have decided, for the rest of this week anyway, to try again with morning pages.  It seems like a good routine to add to my established blogging schedule, and a practice that might have some benefits in dealing with the grief, depression and anxiety that are probably not going to enhance any other writing.  I am due for a major change in my paid work schedule at the end of the school year, and am anticipating having one less needful household member in the near future.  Those changes should better accommodate more "productive" writing.  

So morning pages it is.  And a smaller notebook.

(My husband goes on record as objecting.  He never liked morning pages, and considers my blog a glorified form of the same.  According to him, it's just another dodge.  I persist, nonetheless.  This is my train, and he is not the engineer!)

1 comment:

  1. "Well, I wanna be your lover baby, I don't wanna be your boss/ i can't help it if this train gets lost"

    jmh and bob