8.14.2012

freedom

First day in a lot lot lot of days that writing has felt appealing and not like pulling teeth.  First day I've gotten to the end of a chapter and wanted to keep going.

I said to myself last night, "Alright lady.  I'm letting you off the hook.  If you don't want to write anymore, you don't have to."  It was a bit of a turning point, in part because I never thought I'd say those words to myself.  In my moving and unpacking and corralling painters and electricians and roofers and exterminators and anyone else who wanted to wander into my house in the last few months, writing became just another thing on my to do list.  And let me tell you, there is very little happiness on a to do list.  They are, by nature, chores.

Writing didn't always feel like a chore.  But for a while, for me, it's been heading in that direction.  Long before the move, to be honest.  Something about the combination of my relentless perfectionism and the pressure brought to bear by reading too many blogs about writing/publishing and just feeling generally dissatisfied with my own lack of progress - I was hammering away at something large and impenetrable.  And when my hammer broke I started using my hands, and when my hands were useless I just started banging my head against it.  And after a while writing just meant twisted guts and heavy lifting and the pounding of a very bruised brain.

Until last night, when I finally let myself stop.  No more pressure.  No more self-imposed deadlines or mandatory word counts.  No more berating myself for not drafting faster or better.  There is no one way I am supposed to be doing this thing.  There's no "supposed to" at all.  No one is making me do this except me, and I write - allegedly - because I want to.

I'm trying to learn again how to want to.

I'm cutting way back on the blogs I read.  A lot of the bigger writing- and publishing-oriented blogs were so, so helpful when I was starting out, but I feel like I have the lay of the land now, and those constant reminders - commerce, commerce, commerce - just feel a little like drinking poison.  (Note: I will, of course, continue to read and love and snuggle up with the blogs of my writerly buds.  In other words, if you're reading this - YOURS IS NOT THE BLOG I AM NOT READING.  Heh.)

I'm sitting out on my sunporch right now, surrounded by trees and listening to crickets, and the truth is at some point, this is just it.  Me, and the quiet, and my story.  Things got complicated for a while, but there's not a whole lot more than this.

No more poison.  No more self-sabotage.  I write toward joy, or I don't write at all.

14 comments:

  1. *luff* Writing is hard, especially for we perfectionists.

    "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped up and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty(I like to switch this word for COMPLETED) first draft."--Anne Lamott

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    1. Amen sister. And thank you for reminding me that I am wayyyy overdue for a re-read of Bird by Bird. :)

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  2. Write because you want to, or don't write at all. Write because there's a living creative urge inside you that seeks to find a voice, not because you're trying to force creativity on a scheduled demand.

    Commands of commerce needn't be heeded my Lady - it's not like you ain't got a day job that can put food on the table and keep the wolf from the door, right?

    Listen to the crickets, and listen to your heart.

    And if you do decide to write, you've got at least one person who's ready and happy to read whatever your feel like putting on to paper. ;^)

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    1. Yes yes yes and YES. Right you are - and thank you. It's amazing how freely the words came once I stopped trying to force them out. Note to self: I am not a tube of toothpaste. Lesson learned (I hope).

      And right back atcha re: being a ready and happy reader of your work! If ever you want another set of eyes, I'm here.

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  3. 'Something about the combination of my relentless perfectionism and the pressure brought to bear by reading too many blogs about writing/publishing and just feeling generally dissatisfied with my own lack of progress - I was hammering away at something large and impenetrable. And when my hammer broke I started using my hands, and when my hands were useless I just started banging my head against it. And after a while writing just meant twisted guts and heavy lifting and the pounding of a very bruised brain.'

    This is so impeccably-articulated, Jessica. I want to take the words, 'And when my hammer broke I started using my hands,' with me out into the world, today.

    This is selfish, utterly selfish -- but I hope your new-found freedom includes the occasional post. You have the way of a favorite columnist. Even your comment last night to my own post read with such authentic voice. This is who you are: we go through the day teetering toward auto-pilot but then we come across something or someone or some word that arrests out momentum and causes us to have an unexpected response, be it a smile or tingles up the arm or a reflecting nod of the head. That's you. That's the way you express yourself.

    Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean.

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    1. Wow, Suze. Thank you. What a compliment - particularly from you, who regularly knocks me down flat with your words and ideas. I actually got a little teary at that. Sheesh.

      I do hope to post more. This blog is on my mind a lot, but part of the recent radio silence was that I wasn't sure what to say, and couldn't really find a way to say it. I feel like something has shifted, though, like I finally grabbed the right brick and the wall is coming down. So I certainly hope to hang 'round these parts more often. Thanks for sticking with me.

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    2. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

      (No pressure ...)

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    3. I know. Bad blogger! Was on vacation and then had a friend in the hospital and now I have family coming to visit. But I'm on it! Missive forthcoming, I promise. :)

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    4. No. Not bad blogger. Just take it as a compliment that your fans clamor for you. :)

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    5. Suze's got it right. Clamor! Clamor!

      And I haven't forgotten those quotes - will get them to you soon. :-)

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  4. Thanks Jessica: That is exactly how I've been feeling lately. I wanted to stop by and say hi, but my procrastination to write again ends tonight. I've decided blogging is important, but my sequel will not get finished if I don't get back into a regular routine of writing minimum of four to five hours each day, actual work, actual writing, and no more electronics, web surfing, etc. I'm back to the straight and narrow, and enjoying the journey while I do it. Hey, those two little words 'do it' is the key. Have a great week. I'll stop by from time to time to say, "Hi." Thanks for the follow. Check out "The Veil" when you get the time. www.kscollier-author.com and have a great weekend. Thanks for the story. You are not alone, I believe a lot of writers experience the same feelings. I just finished a move that took 3 months plus, and I totally understand. I still don't have my pictures hung and have some things in the garage to get rid of, but I've decided my sequel is now front and center.

    Good luck and enjoy what you do, or it is not worth the effort.

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    1. I hear you. It is so hard to fit in all the life-things we have to get done in a day, and anything else (the blogging, the black hole of the internet, TV, etc.) just devour what's left while you're busy not paying attention. Sometimes a good purge is in order. Good luck keeping to the path - let me know how it goes!

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  5. This is why I’ve missed your posts. You don’t post 'cause you feel you have to, to keep to some preset schedule, but simply whenever you have something to say. And it’s always sincere and eloquent and helpful.

    So when I started this, I was like yay, she’s back. And then I saw where you’d been, and I started stacking up quotes in my head to share. And by the final part you’d said it all. You knew. You’d already gotten it, and I'm so glad you got there.

    Writing, or any creative act, is like sex. If you do it to schedule, and especially for pay, it just cheapens it and out goes the emotion and the meaning. You have to be eager for it, and part of that sometimes means going a while without.

    And I wish you and your writing many good nights of snuggling.

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    1. MC! I was starting to get worried and sad that maybe I'd lost you when I hadn't heard from you in a few days. :) Glad to see you.

      So... does this mean I don't get to hear the list of quotes that were stacking up in your head? Because you know I'm a sucker for quotes.

      Thanks for the well-wishes. I think I'm getting somewhere, finally finally. The boulder of self-recrimination and unnecessary guilt is awfully heavy, but what a lovely discovery it is to find that you can just... set it down. Finally my hands are free.

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