Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Irregular Writer

I was never a diary-writer. Even as a kid, I did not keep regular track of the goings-on in the Barbie and Ken crowd. I wrote when I was moved to, when something excited me, or bothered me, when I felt like I had no other way to communicate.

Remember the made-for-TV disaster movie, The Day After, about a nuclear attack in the midwest (Kansas? I think it was poor, unlucky, home-of-the-Westboro-Baptist-Nutjobs Kansas)? I was in sixth grade and I remember much ado about broadcasting such a relentlessly real movie about the horrors of nuclear disaster on network television and what it might do to the children (will anyone think about the children?).  The network (I think) strongly suggested that parents watch it with their children and make an effort to talk about it afterwards. Being a good mother, my mom dutifully watched it with me and when it was over, just as dutifully asked me if I wanted to talk about it. No, I was okay.  I don't remember the exact exchange of words (Obvs. It was darn near 30 years ago, fer crissake!), but I do remember going up to my bedroom and getting out a notebook. Again, I don't remember anything I wrote, but I do remember I was trying to figure it all out on paper. For whatever reason, that felt more comfortable to me (and to my mom's credit, she let me. I remember her checking in on me. I am sure that she would've wanted to be the sounding board for whatever I was processing, but she didn't push. She let me work it out on my own).

I wrote about it that night, dumped whatever feelings and thoughts I had about it on the page, then moved on. I don't think I went back to the topic, nor did I sit down the next night and write about whatever it was that was happening in a thirteen-year-old's life. Rollerskating parties? Biking to the Rite Aid to buy Hit Parade magazine? Going to the mall?  Whatever it was, it wasn't important enough or interesting enough to move me to write about it. Writing was never a habit for me, it was a need (Blerg. That sounds terribly self-important and eye-rollingly melodramatic. Sorry.)

I suppose that's still true for me now that I'm an adult. I've tried to write regularly with fair to middling success. I've tried to keep regular pages (three a night) and I go for respectable spans of time before I trail off. It's not that I don't enjoy the process, but I do find that when I'm constantly trying to force myself, the tedium can outweigh any benefits I might reap. Though I do understand that the only way to get through the tedium is to keep writing. But it also breeds frustration. Sitting for what seems like an eternity writing page after page of nonsense (sometimes it is, literally, nonsense), waiting for a breakthrough can be as detrimental to the writing process as not writing at all, or at least it feels that way to me. But still, I try. I sit and I fidget and I scribble and grasp at straws and cross out and start again. Sigh. 

The blog is helping, I think. Yeah, I know--I'm lousy at posting regularly. But this is all part of my process. It's all part of me trying to figure out who I am as a writer, what kind of writer I am, what I need from my writing and the circumstances under which I write the best. It's not an easy road to navigate. On one hand, as I said, I understand the necessity of regularity. On the other, I know myself, my personality and the kinds of ways I am motivated. And I have to somehow figure out a way to make those two things fit together. How much of the non-writer me needs to change to accommodate the writer me and how much can I change to fit those needs and still be the person I need to be? 

Um, what? 

I can't even make sense of that last statement. And that's not a good sign!  Perhaps the heat is getting to me. Perhaps I should quit before I get too overheated. 

I'm sure I'll revisit this topic again, I feel like there's more to discuss, more insight to try to glean from it. I'll come back to it. At irregular intervals, of course. :)

Until then, I'll be hanging out by the window unit. That is, if the dog moves over.   


  1. I've never been sold on the idea of writing daily. I know it's widely accepted advice, and many people consider it essential, but I've never bought into it. First, like all writing advice, particularly advice that is supposed to help you stay in touch with your writer self, it is doomed to fail. Second, would you recommend having sex every day? Writing is exhausting. The breaks make it better. This is a law of nature. Up against nature, habits are notoriously, well, impotent. To keep the metaphor going.
    I sense it is time to shut up. I remain,
    Your fellow irregular writer.

  2. i was going to make a joke about high fiber cereal, but decided not to.