Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quit Screwing Around

Recently I came across a blog post recommended on Twitter about writing.  I read a lot of Twitter posts, blog posts, Facebook links, and Google News excerpts on writing.  I have at least a dozen books on writing, mostly by Natalie Goldberg, but also by the like Annie Dillard and Anne Lammott.  I read a lot about writing.
I belong to a group that admonishes me to shut up and write.  The basis of our meetings is simple--sit down, introduce yourself and your work, and then the organizer tells us to put pen to paper and write for an hour.  I belong to another group that does the same thing, only in the Twitterverse.
Still, I put up walls for myself.
At some point I’ll probably stop handwriting my first drafts of my work, despite the fact that I’m in good company (think Virginia Woolf).  And since I started morning pages in December of 2010, I had been utilizing them to “warm up,” to say whatever I wanted to for three pages before I had to get down to business in a different notebook.  By December of 2011 I was resenting the hell out of morning pages.  I wanted to get down to business, but felt it imperative that I “warm up.”  Did all of my teachers and mentors in writing say to “warm up”?  So I did.
In January I moved to Carlsbad, and my writing time diminished considerably.  Certain members of my household assumed that I would take over house hold chores that no one else wanted to do, which are most of the household chores.  I was presented with a commission-only job, with a start-up, that took a full day’s effort every day to start up.  On top of all of this was a lengthy walking commute to the library, where the internet was more reliable than at home.  Fiction?  Poetry?  Blogs?  Short stories?  Perhaps now would be the perfect time to give up on writing.
Telling me to give up on writing usually produces implosions, however, and then along came this magic blog post.  At that point I was presented with common sense, which made me feel sort of silly for my light years of “warming up” and “practice.”
Here’s the thing:  I think there is still space for practice, although not for me anymore.  I think when you’re a young or new writer, and fragile, practice is better than nothing.  Practice gives you a way to get in the pool without drowning in the deep end.  Practice is a nice easing in, and develops commitment.  But sitting in practice beyond your comfort zone establishment threshold is like have the same meal every day due to fear of cooking or fear of eating (or both) anything different.  The establishment becomes bleak.  You wonder why you eat, er, write, at all.
So here I am, on a Sunday morning, cranking out a three-page rough draft of a blog post.  I try to remain a little disciplined about the whole thing.  Weekday pages are for the novel.  Weekends I hop around--one Saturday with my brother on the dock before fishing I cranked out three pages of nature poetry, and the rest of the weekend entries so far have been blog posts.  Blog entries are moving to once a month now instead of once a week--I want to get better fiction, bolder at fiction, and my internet time is too limited to dwell on so much of a presence on it anyway.  Fiction seems more forgiving than blogs anyway.  If people don’t like what you say in a blog, it’s your message they stop listening to.  If people don’t like what your character says in a novel or a short story, they may say something like, “I knew someone like that once,” but they may give the message a second chance.
And, save for the critics, who don’t necessarily have to be acknowledged, and editors, who can be traded for another editor who has the same vision, there are no trolls commenting on fiction.  With blogs you have to respond to comments, acknowledge them, or you lose readers.  Blogs rule the writer.  Fiction flows through the writer.
Since this shift from “practice” and “warming up” to taking my three pages and cranking out what I publish, there have been all kinds of transformations in my writing:
  • I’m better at revision;
  • I don’t feel the urge to publish so much or publish immediately;
  • I trust my own voice more;
  • I possess a hell of a lot less resentment;
  • I don’t feel my writing life is a waste;
  • I feel in charge of my development.
And one more thing...which will stir the pot, so to speak (but, after all, this is a blog post)...
I have no desire to read one more damn tweet, blog post, book, etc., about how to write and what to do with that writing.  It’s not due to thinking about these posts as bad advice--they are surely helping someone somewhere.  It’s not because I consider myself an expert on the subject, not by any means.  It’s just that, as with any activity, from cooking, to eating, to flying on the trapeze...
Eventually you just have to sit down, shut up, and do it.
Write on.

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