I know why I need to post a weekly entry, but I am taken over by resistance and fear, which is what happens when I approach any actual writing.
I can think about it all with a fantastically cooperative mind. For example, when I am drifting into sleep, or waking up—entire paragraphs form themselves with lightning speed. And they all sound good in my head. Worthy of notice. But let it be anything close to the time to put real words on real paper, and watch the stars fall.
I am, in truth, a frightened and perfectionistic person. I don’t want to commit to any sentence that isn’t stunningly and euphorically moving. As soon as I put my fingers on the keys I freeze. I am unwilling to turn off the editor inside.
It’s a common thing among us learners and practicers.
But at my age it is too late for that. My career window is shorter than most (try revealing that to an agent to hurry them along with your manuscript, and see where it gets you). I have used up all my nuggets of bullheaded fear, and wasted them well.
There is a simple kit at my feet, and it has only one tool in it. Do it anyway, and prepare to pitch it if required. A good friend said, so you’re middle-aged. Decide now that you will do as much as you do, and that’s it. Plan prepare execute—and let go of the outcome. Die knowing you did what you could and should, finally, for God sake, have done. It was about time you got off your butt and became willing to fail if requested to do so. Your only function was ever to try hard.
Now these next two points should be ignored by all the brilliant and wise young artists who have already won all the prizes and accolades on earth, and have nothing creative or wise left to do:
- My own father said hardly any wise things to me in his whole life. One of them was (wise, I mean). He said I shouldn’t write until I had something to say. So, later. (He ruined the effect by his follow-up statement that I should therefore get a ‘real’ job.)
- In the twelve step programs (you know, those places for addiction, compulsions etc.) they talk about talking thusly: you get up in front of people, and you tell them about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.
My father, and the twelve step programs, conspired over a couple decades to hint that if I had tried this writing gig too hard, too early, it would only be the equivalent of getting up in front of people and telling them what it was like, what it was like, and what it was like.
(When I look back on my early poems and stories, I see that it is true. There is not a jot of wisdom or compassion in any of them. There is bitterness. There is irony. There’s some pretty amazing imagery. And there is quite a lot of alliteration. But there is nothing deeply lasting, or moving, or hopeful for healing. Not a word of it, anywhere.)
Recently I suffered a fabulous revelation which comforts me in the awkward space between those words that flood my mind, and that blank computer screen that frostily ignores me when I sit down to translate what I heard while lying untense and unaware of my chronic failings:
Writing is NOT typing.
Writing is WRITING.
James Joyce couldn’t even see what he wrote. But it was still writing. Was it ever.
Therefore, the words I string together with my mind are real. They say something, whether they exist on the screen or in the ether.
A computer needs to be invented that doesn’t cost a lot, and will instantly type what I think. Until it does, I may have to write with my eyes closed.
Because when I do, I’m not so bad. It’s as close to perfect as I’ll ever get.