Discover more from ordinary miracles
Writing after not writing
Curious about the resistance
This quote by Joy Harjo is one that has stayed with me this week. It’s offered the questions: how can I be in a state of becoming? How can I further put down my illusions of control? How can I become alongside, and in collaboration with, the work itself?
Writers and all kind of creators often talk about the dance between discipline and surrender— don’t push too hard, or you’ll scare the work away. Don’t force the words or they will lie flat. But also… don’t disregard schedule or showing up.
It’s a tricky thing, that balance. Most of us fall on one side or another. I remember starting a new journal every few months as a kid and never reaching the final page, my attention pulled to a new shiny notebook every few weeks. It resulted in a stack of journals a mile high filling my childhood bedroom’s closet, ten pages in each. I can imagine my great-grandmother shaking her head, barely able to purchase paper. I can also imagine the astrology memes—classic Pisces, floundering, changing directions or ideas every time there’s resistance.
Finishing a difficult thing feels… good. There’s no way around it. It feels good to finish the mile, the manuscript, the recipe, the book, no matter how difficult. I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who said it wasn’t her deal with the universe to write a perfect book, it was her deal to just finish one.
It also feels damn good to quit. To quit the job, the relationship, the problem set that no longer serves.
It’s strange, to be so good at quitting, but also prone to staying too long. Though I think I’m getting better at knowing when something is worth staying and fighting for.
There’s a meme I saw today from Feminist Press— a photo of a costume, blank, titled “The Novel You Said You’re writing.”
I can’t tell you how hard this made me laugh. It felt so TRUE. Readers, I am supposed to be writing a novel. I, in fact, have been given a year to write the said novel, an abundance of time, a home, an interested agent and publisher.
Which makes me curious about how resistant I am.
This week, I got sick of complaining about how hard it was, and sick of my usual mentality that “walking is writing, doing the dishes is writing, dancing is writing.” Except that, well, it isn’t… not exactly. I still stand by this idea, most of the time— I’m not one of those writers that can sit there for 7 hours at my desk, at least not every day. I’m more hummingbird, 20 minutes there, a line here, a paragraph while the pasta is boiling.
But enough was enough. The hardest part is beginning. And I began. And as I began, I encountered all the voices that said it was terrible, and horrible, and no one would ever read it, and I was a poet, not a novelist, just like a sprinter is not the same as a marathon runner, we have different training, etc.
How interesting, the voices that tell us to quit before we even start. And the fascinating thing was that as I actually started, I realized that while it wasn’t exactly easy, it also wasn’t hard. Writing fiction was far more interesting than I remembered. In my solipsistic worrying about writing, I forgot about act of writing itself, about becoming. The discovery. The absurdity. The joy of rendering and remembering.
I guess I share this in case you are writing a novel, or thinking about it, or convincing yourself you shouldn’t do it, or can’t do it. Or maybe it’s not a novel, but a screenplay, a book of poetry, a painting, a business.
How can we be in a state of becoming alongside the work itself? I have no answers, but I’ll sit alongside you in this question. Let me know what you find. Meanwhile I’ll be writing the pages I’m newly committed too, drinking too many cups of coffee, respectfully nodding at the voice that tells me to quit while continuing on, making this face. Hold me to it!
With love and full-sized trick-or-treating candy bars,
PS, some ordinary miracles: