Writing interrupted

My writing routine has slipped away. Getting up in the morning to read and write before the rest of my house has gone by the wayside for the last couple of weeks and I need to refocus. To that end, I decided to wake early today and get back at it, I need to read something, write something.

I picked up The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a book I ordered ages ago when I was in a daily rhythm with my writing. Things were going so well, I thought it was advice I didn’t need, forgetting how this writing thing goes with its peaks and valleys. The first section of the book is about facing resistance, to do the thing you want most to do when every other thing in life is calling you, tempting you away from it.

This paragraph bluntly encapsulates where I am:

As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture. We overthrow the programming of advertising, movies, video games, magazines, TV and MTV by which we have been hypnotized from the cradle. We uplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., buy only by doing our work.

How did I know I was in trouble? I didn’t do any new writing on my project this week. For the past 8 weeks I have produced 7 new pages of work to share with a peer in my writing group, have put my all into it, honed and edited to get the words just right. But not this week. It felt a little bit like failure. Luckily we rotate writing partners every Friday and I could give them a piece I’d already sent out. But it was a wake up to get back to work.

The War of Art carries brief snippets of encouragement with each tiny chapter, prodding me back to my purpose. It was exactly the book I needed this morning.

And so here I go, back to work.



Asking for help

There have been many times over the last several weeks since I broke my leg that I’ve had to ask for help and I’ve realized how hard this continues to be for me. It is either something about my innate personality or it came from growing up in a big family where there were so many people with needs, I seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I was a particularly shy child who loved nothing more than to cling to my mother’s leg. Hated going to kindergarten and cried all day every day for weeks until I finally accepted it wasn’t going to change anything. But I was fully committed to not asking for help and it followed me to first grade where I found one friend to be my spokesperson. I would tell her what I needed and she would tell the teacher. You might not be surprised to hear this didn’t go over very well and it ended with me repeating first grade.

By the time my youngest and fifth sibling arrived, nine years after me, my mother was eager for me to become somewhat independent of her. I had made a couple of good friends but was fearful of adults and she thought if she had me call to make my own dental appointments, this would help. Aha! Maybe that’s why I have always hated the phone! Yes, I made my own dental appointments, but that was where it started. From there she made me join teams, signed me up for dance lessons, prodded me to ask teachers for help, and the summer after eighth grade she concocted a disasterous idea to sign me up to be a candy striper. These were all efforts to engage me in the world outside of my shyness where I preferred to hunker down with a book. My worlds were big, they were just fictional.

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Reading About Writing

When I decided to start writing a memoir last fall, having contemplated it for many years, I knew I would need a lot of guidance. As my new morning writing routine kicked into gear, a favorite part of it was selecting books about writing to read, choosing well experienced authors as my guide. The first was a book I had on hand from one of my writing classes when I started signing up for classes in the months after getting sober. Marion Roach Smith’s, The Memoir Project, could be read in an afternoon but I chose to savor each chapter by reading just a little bit each day. The best advice I gleaned from it was to a) write every time with intention and b) always ask yourself what is this about. She incorporated bits of her own story and these tripped my own memories and provided writing inspiration without the use of prompts which she doesn’t like to use in her teaching. There is also a personal connnection to Marion because I worked with her husband for many years and met her on a few ocassions. She is personable and striking with beautiful red hair and you can tell she pays attention.

For my next book, I chose Alexander Chee’s, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. While it is not a writing book per se, I found the biographical stories he wrote to be beautifully written. He is my age and grew up in a small Maine town which is somthing I can relate to. His stories reminded me of my own stories even though he is part Korean and gay, two things I am not. These stories were marvelous prompts to write about my own experiences, particularly high school since we were of the same era and many times it offered a contrast to my life, particulaly my path to writing. He knew early on he wanted to write and doggedly pursued it from the beginning. I had absolutely no confidence that I could be any good at it and gave up before I got started. The idea I came away with here was to write as if your life depends on it, as if you were dying. The point was driven home in a story he wrote about a barista friend who was writing a book and died of AIDS before finishing it. Chee wrote a memorial piece about the man and it was on display in the coffee shop’s window and it was a daily reminder for him to keep writing.

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