Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You have to be careful who you let define your good. -Lois McMaster Bujold

I really want to write. I read other people’s writing and it makes me want to write. I spend lifetimes commuting in my van thinking about what I could say. But for the better part of two weeks, I spend all day in front of a computer and.....nothing. There is chaos in my head and busy-ness all around me and the only thing it makes me feel is empty. And so very tired.

There are reasons. It’s January. I’m stubborn and chose to carry a burden squarely on my broad shoulders. My girls are going through something really hard that they might never fully comprehend and my heart hurts for them. It’s tempting to get stuck here and let life get frayed around the sharp edges of what is meaningful and necessary. But I won’t. I can’t.

Today, as I sat reading about someone’s nearly parallel life I was given a gift. A reminder to "Do The Work". A powerful three words if I’ve ever read them. Sometimes life is easy and effortless. But for now, I will put my head down and do the work.

12 Comments:

Blogger Greg Pagel said...

A noble aspiration! About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to try to write music with lyrics, which has always been IMPOSSIBLE for me. So I thought I'd start with poetry, which is almost as hard. I bought a journal, and started writing poetry. BAD poetry. I thought, if I just expect it to be bad, I won't be disappointed, and I won't be daunted by the task of cranking out a masterpiece.

I only wrote free-verse, and what I found myself doing was being really careful about how I chose and arranged words. As a result, I found that I gravitated towards a very sparse, economic style. Like, can I say the same thing with one sentence instead of two? How about a four-word sentence instead of eight?

My point is that, for about two months until I got bored with the project, I was actually "doing the work." In many ways, of course, it was threapeutic. I wrote a lot of poems about my son who, like your girls, has been going through a lot. It helped me develop a certain kind of compassion for him, although the poems were still, for the most part, terrible.

Keep us posted!

4:12 PM  
Blogger Pewter said...

Appears you have lost focus or at the very least the focus is not where you want it to be. Strange from the person I once knew. Of course that is quickly approaching 20 yrs ago.

I must agree with Greg. Start writing. Just let it flow. If you want/need to go somewhere you have to actually leave the house otherwise you'll never get there. Same basic principle applies. If you write nothing, nothing will be all you get.

Mindless babble can lead to a creative path. Oh, wait you are already letting some of it go by having a blog. It's in there you just have to relax and let it out.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Greg Pagel said...

Pewter, you have too much insight to remain anonymous.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Erin,
The most important lesson of writing is one Greg already touched on and I wish I could phrase it without profanity but the naughty word seems to drive the point as hard as can be so I'll not use restraint...

Don't be afraid to write shit.

The minute I understood that the first five drafts of my material were going to be hopeless shit....the fear of writing went away. Better still, I stopped calling what I do 'writing,' because that word in itself carries much weight and connotations.

I'm just in my office, scribbling. Or, better still, I'm pressing a pencil to paper and making lines that resemble the alphabet which, when read in order, might make sense.

Now, I am, primarily, a screenwriter, so please take what I say with a grain of celluloid...er, salt. The type of scribbling I do constitutes the lowest common denominator of all creation. I write so others can pervert my work into something unrecognizable to me for the sole goal of scoring a buck. Basically, I'm the Used Car Salesman of the writing world.

Worst of all, I love it. I love the act of doing it, I love the rejection, the hissy-fit production people, the snakes, the sharks, all of it. I can't get enough of it.

My poor wife.

Anyway.

If you can put to paper half of the talent that I've seen on this blog, you'll be in fine shape.

Because, primarily, I'm envious. I wish I could write with your clarity and directness. You have what most writers PINE for and don't know how to achieve...

You have a voice.

That goes a long way, my ex-almost-sort-of-neighbor.

Tomorrow, or the next day, get up twenty minutes early. Put pen to paper (or keys to board). Do a page. Surprise yourself. That's what I do. And DON'T fret the SHIT. The SHIT will come. There's nothing one can do about that. But REwriting makes the boo-boo go away, so to speak.

Sorry I got so long winded here. It's a topic near and dear to my heart.

GO FORTH! Crank that novel out!

(as long as I get first crack at film adaptation rights! big bucks! har har!)

12:51 AM  
Blogger Gregg said...

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
—E.L. Doctorow

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little."
—Anne Lamott


Write on, E!

2:23 AM  
Blogger mimikatemom said...

I love these comments. I love that there are so many people I know that include writing as one of the great passions
in their lives. Reading from the periphery of all of your lives has made me smile more times than I can count. I am
someone who needs a sense of community in my life and I’m glad to have found that here. Thanks to everyone
who comments and shares their thoughts with me. I’m a “pay it forward” kinda girl so the echoes of your kind
words and support will be felt by others also. Good thoughts will come back to you too! :) I also have to say...that
most of what I’ve written about is er... me. I think the term for my “style” could be ah... naval gazing. I’ve never
really tried to write from any other perspective. Maybe, after reading all your supportive comments, I should try!
Would be nice to get out of my head for awhile.

And now, umm, a little clarification perhaps. I never meant for “do the work” to be interpreted as the process of
writing to produce an end result beyond personal clarification. “Do the work” to me means so much more than that
right now. To me, it means accepting that I’m scared and I am 500 miles away from most of my support system and
I’m sad and I’m not perfect and to just feel all those things and accept them and not run from it. For me, it is work
to allow myself to feel those things not knowing if there’s a happy ending. Lucky for me I’ve found that when all
that “noise” threatens to drown out everything else I can do two things...purge the contents of my id/ego/super ego
here or go in a completely opposite direction and work my body until my brain is silent. Save for the little voice in
my head that’s screaming for me to stop because, seriously, no one is chasing me.

10:48 AM  
Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

A wise one once said, "It is what it is." You can't change what was. But you can always do the work to make what will be much better.

I've gotten to know you pretty well this past year. I can assure you, your head is on straight. Work can suck sometimes. But you're at least doing a good job of it.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Pewter said...

Figured that is what you meant but I was trying not to go down that road. I could see the pain/pleading in your writing.

Your sense of community is well grounded. We all desire interactions with people who can relate. This builds the whole support group idea. It is also why you have devolped friendships over the years. If you ask your friends or family for help, guidance or just general support I am confident they will step up. There are also people in your area willing to help. You just have to ask. Your not an island by yourself.

Perspective is also something to think about. Some call me competative and I know you are. Let's face it, losing sucks. Try to view your situation as a game and compete for the win.

In the end things always seems to work out. At least from what I have experienced, they always have.

1:54 PM  
Blogger jenny said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:41 PM  
Blogger jenny said...

i know how you feel erin, i was living in san diego going through a very ugly divorce with my support system all the way in madison. it felt like i had been uprooted without any heart strings connected to anyone and at the same time i also felt this sort of pressure to make sure to tell everyone that i was going to be all right. i was so close to dropping out of grad school and hightailing it back to madison. and in the end it doesn't matter because it's all okay. doing the work is really hard. and i think it's rather courageous of you to actually go "there". no words of wisdom my dear, i know you have all the answers, just know that there are plenty of people who have your back from afar.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Greg Pagel said...

Since Jenny didn't say it, I will.

What you describe sounds a bit like meditation. I think it'd be cool to compare formal meditation to your approach to running. I'm a novice at meditation, and I don't know shit about running, but I just thought I'd put that out there. I think some might descibe what you do as "mindulness of running." If you'd ever want to try dissolving the "ego" while sitting, I'd cheer you on and hand you cups of water.

A couple of books which have been useful to me in making myself "do the work" are Pema Chodron's "The Wisdom of No Escape" and "Anger" by Thich Nhat Hahn. Actually, the latter one has literally saved my life a few times.

As far as writing, I think writing about yourself is of limitless value. In this realm, we have almost no time for self-reflection or examination. Don't write about someone else.

Keep hangin in there. In the words of Chuck D, "When life's difficulties meet you head on, head on. Head on. Head on."

9:19 PM  
Blogger Pewter said...

See leave it to the guys to take words literally. See there in lies the difference. A guy says he's hungry. Cool pizza!

A girl says she's hungry and means, a dinner with a smoked salmon brucceto (sp) for an appetizer, tomato and mozzarella salad, a 10oz filet mignon with some other sides with a fine Italian wine followed by dessert.

I'll never get them or I'll just go broke trying to......

8:55 AM  

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