It’s a stop-everything-and-write kind of moment.
And I’m listening.
For some reason, since these sorts of things tend to be inexplicable, I found myself ruminating over my writing and Medium and my blog and the fact that I keep saying and posting and writing about the fact that it’s really hard to find advice and resources about being a new writer that work for me. (Full disclosure: I was cleaning the kitchen as a way to procrastinate putting away laundry, so I was in full daydream-mode.)
Wait, let me back up. I think I was actually ruminating over the nice morning I had, a routine I’ve had the past few Fridays, which I’ll get into but the short version is that it gives me an hour to write by hand before work. I was thinking about how these little moments that I can carve out for myself look random and wouldn’t fit into a “5 Ways to Be the Best Writer Ever Seriously I Mean It and I Should Know” click-baity, solve-all-your-problems-in-a-list article. Yes, so that’s what got me then thinking about all those types of articles I hate.
I don’t hate the authors and I don’t hate the content, per se. I mean, that format must work for many people because it’s the way most advice articles are written. It’s just that they pull every. single. one of my triggers about being perfect and doing things right and projecting an image of having my shit together. The tone usually hits me as condescending and haughty (and it’s half because of how I internalize it and half because there’s no way to write a “here’s the best way to do something” article and not sound at least a little condescending), and before I know it I have eight dozen things I “must” do every day before I even write a word. Thankfully, although it took some time, I’ve realized that the amount of anxiety and strife I cause myself by trying to filter out from those articles the nuggets of solid advice and relatable language far outweighs any benefit that I may get. Articles telling me how famous creatives arranged their day? Great, now I feel inadequate because I can’t take three-hour afternoon walks about town or sleep only four hours a night, oh and right I have a day job. Articles telling me how to write and have a day job? Great, now I feel inadequate because I’m not waking up at 4:00am to write for three hours before I go to the office or staying up until midnight or both (see above re: four hours of sleep per night. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, seriously? Do they live past the age of fifty? Do they have friends because god I would be a terrible person to be around if I didn’t get a solid seven to eight per night.). I’m also supposed to generally take care of myself, and for fuck’s sake if these articles can make a person who takes very good care of herself feel like she’s not doing enough, well, I guess that means I’m taking them too personally (see above re: triggers). But do I really need to mix twelve supplements (and butter!) into my morning coffee? When, then, do I drink my hot water with lemon and honey and apple cider vinegar and probably something green thrown in there?
Ok, this totally isn’t a sidebar. It’s the entire point of what I’m trying to say.
If those articles don’t work for me, and I wish there were more honest glimpses into the day-to-day of someone struggling to find time to write in between a full day job and other hobbies and relationships, then I can’t be the only one. Right? Right?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing about my weird inner voices, is that I’m never really alone in how I’m feeling.
So, as the saying goes, if you want something done right, do it your own damn self.
How I Want to Do It
Writing is important to me. It’s just not the only thing that’s important to me. And I’m tired of feeling like I’m not going to succeed at writing a novel if I don’t conform to all those damn lists. Because I also want to succeed at my job, at being a runner, at being a partner and a friend and a family member, at the various other things I want to learn how to do (I’m looking at you, kite surfing and scuba diving).
(Did you like that casual announcement that I’m writing a novel?)
Yes, I know that if I want to do any of these things to the level of being a guru or whatever, that I’m spreading myself thin and not focusing on getting my 10,000 damn hours or whatever. But life’s too short, I think, to ignore the pulls toward what I want to do. And life’s definitely too short to be wishing I had tried out something I’m interested in.
So, right now, I’m interested in writing. And yes, I have the nascent scenes of a novel pouring out of my fingers and onto the page, so I want to see where that goes. And yes, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing in the academic sense, but I want to muddle through.
And I want to capture the process. By writing, of course, with the occasional photo thrown in.
I want to document my successes and struggles, the easy days and hard days, I want to both put this out into the world to help even one other person and also to hold myself accountable by knowing I’ll be “reporting” on my progress. Even if no one reads, I’ll have to write it.
What Would I Write About Today?
If I were sitting down to write an article today, about where I am in my writing and what I found useful and difficult, what would I write?
I would share that I find immense value in writing things by hand, that there’s something about the act of slowing down and stopping every once in a while to work out a cramp lets thoughts become whole.
I would share that finding a comfortable, familiar place to write outside of my regular desk gives a newness to the process and sparks different ideas and gives my writing a different tone.
I would share that I’ve discovered these things the past few Fridays, almost accidentally. I started taking a Friday morning yoga class at the gym where I work. Instead of heading straight to my desk, I grab breakfast and sit with my notebook and my coffee and my breakfast burrito and write. Sometimes I spill salsa onto the pages. Sometimes I have to wrestle a burrito that will fall apart if I put it down with a moment of intense one-handed writing or, worse, having to turn a page. Sometimes my coffee goes cold because I forget to drink it, and sometimes I do more people-watching than writing.
The point is, it’s an hour in my week that I’ve found. Yes, it’s at the expense of an extra thirty minutes of sleep and thirty minutes at the office, but it’s an hour of doing something I want to do. Something that’s important to me.
It’s the same way I brought running into my life ten (coughpluscough) years ago. Little by little, imperfect piece by imperfect piece. Back then, the logic for doing my long runs on Saturdays is so that I’d have at least one weekend night to go out and drink a lot. So, that certainly didn’t have the looks of running to be a guru, it was just running because I liked it and oh yeah I was a grad student working a gazillion hours plus drinking probably too much but I was 23 and invincible. My first marathon was 4:27, my PR in 2015 was 3:07. So, imperfect piece by imperfect piece, I became faster, but more importantly, running became part of my fabric, my being, my lifestyle.
So here I am, trying to write, imperfectly, but that’s better than nothing. And I’m excited about letting it lead me to new places within myself. It doesn’t matter if I become good or published or famous. The point is the journey will make me a writer, which means whatever steps I took along that journey are valuable and worth sharing, even if they’re nowhere to be found on anyone’s Top Five lists.