I’m at Word Whores today, talking about what happens when I don’t write.
Quite the show.
Last night Kerry and I were talking about how making progress on the writing can make or break your day. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it can be astonishing how much of a difference getting the writing in can make.
She had slunk home from a grueling day at work. Her job involves people in crisis, so it’s more emotionally demanding than, say, mine. She said she was in a mood of deepest blue, but had to try to work on her revisions anyway. I gave her the virtual pep talk and she disappeared for a while.
When she came back a bit later, having hit her page goal, her mood had entirely shifted. Everything suddenly looked better. She felt ready to go spend time with family who needed her emotional support.
“I use the analogy with my patients of the airplane, where you put on your own oxygen mask before assisting another,” she told me.
Sometimes I think this is mainly true of writers. I also saw this guest blog post by D.J. Morel yesterday. (This is a bit of a departure for the Pimp My Novel blog, which is usually about the marketing end of publishing and well worth following. Clearly I liked this guest post, too.) He talks about choosing the day job that allows you to write. This line struck me:
When I realized that I was screaming at the walls of my house for a half hour after coming home each night, I knew it was enough. I quit, and didn’t come to understand how unhappy it all had made me until many months down the road. If you are indeed a writer, you can run away from writing, but it’ll only come and find you.
But one of my favorite quotes for a very long time now is this one by Mark Rutherford:
There is in each of us an upwelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground around it into a swamp.
(It turns out I quoted this before on the blog, but it was back in January ’09, so I hope you’ll forgive me the repeat.)
He very carefully does not ascribe this phenomenon only to writers, though he was a novelist. I suspect we all have this, the upwelling spring that keeps us alive, engaged and vital. The Buddhists say each of us has one thing that we do better than anyone else in existence and that life is a journey to discover what that is.
Unfortunately it’s all too easy not to cut a course for the upwelling spring. Daily life piles up, gradually blocking the way. Often we don’t notice until there’s a flood and we’re standing in a boggy mess as far as the eye can see.
What to do then?
Put on your oxygen mask and take a deep breath. The rest will sort itself out.
I got in my one-thousand words this morning.
I have to let it sit there on its own line, because it looks so good to me. It’s one of those celebrations that belongs to me and me alone. Well, and to Isabel, who’s been sitting here offering silent support. Though I suspect she’s just waiting for me to stop typing and start petting.
This is significant to me because I haven’t written my self-required one-thousand words a day since I started this blog. That was my greatest fear — that writing this would suck away my energy from working on my novel, or the sorority book or some of the essays I’ve promised to anthologies.
I knew going in that it would be a challenge. That I was changing my rituals and patterns. I gave myself the first week just to get used to writing the blog. Then I started phasing in my other writing again. And it just wasn’t working. I’d blog, then add my posts to Facebook and MySpace, but not open my email. Sometimes I couldn’t resist and would open my email, which is the kiss of death, the end of all further creative writing in favor of email replies. But, as I actually gained some friends on Facebook, that became the death knell to further writing.
So, today, I finally reversed the order. I did my 1K first, then wrote this. It’s my own personal 1K Day, and the best part is I can have it every day!
Yes, I know you don’t really care. You don’t feel my rush. If you’re not a writer, you probably think I’m nuts. But I know the writers out there understand.
Ten years ago, when we put on a Writers Summit for our region, we made a t-shirt. (Gotta have the shirt!) On the back we put this quote from Mark Rutherford:
“There is in each of us an upswelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground around it into a swamp.”
That’s why it feels good to get my words in. I’ve cut a course today and the swamp is draining. New life springs up in its wake. It’s a good day.