Writing


As part of the poetry class I’m taking, I was looking at various books of poetry I have on my bookshelves and stumbled across this piece by Marge Piercy, which seems to fit the times, although it was published in 1991.

In recently reading a series of intensely personal posts on another blog (which I won’t link to b/c they are password protected) it occurred to me what courage and strength it takes to write, in detail, about an active personal problem: a problem one hasn’t yet found the solution for.  I’m not talking about the 3 sentence ‘can you believe what happened to me today’ post, but the in-depth, holy frijoles, this is what I’m going through and I don’t know how to get out of this spot type of piece.

Is it because we are conditioned by op-eds  and feature articles that not only complain, but provide solutions (at least the better ones do)?  Perhaps.  I think also we don’t want to admit when we feel like a failure, which is what the most complex problems, particularly those we have little control to fix, create in us.  And we don’t want to whine.  Well, maybe a little.  But we’re generally only going to whine in an amusingly snarky fashion that distances ourself from the problem and its causes. 

For instance, BB has a quasi-medical thing that has some pretty embarrassing side effects.  It’s fixable, but its taking a LONG LONG time to fix.  A week ago, there was a Positive Event that had BB, mr. jolt & I celebrating.   I was so hopeful that progress would move forward from there, but like many things that are medical/behavioral, it’s not that easy.  Yet that night, I imagined forward about the self-congratulatory blog post I would write, full of advice for parents dealing with the same issue and how we ‘overcame’ it.*  But I can’t write that post yet.   (not sure I ever will given privacy issues).  But I thought it was illuminating that something I’d never considered writing about (and until recently basically didn’t talk about) suddenly became a ‘writable’ subject once I thought success was within our grasp. 

I dunno.  Maybe its just me and my own inability to get out of my own way when trying to write.

*I now, of course, blame myself for ‘jinxing’ further progress for even thinking we were done.

Oh, where did my blogging thoughts go?

Did they blow away with the snow?

I swear I had posts in my head

But rather than write I instead

Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy

 

Oh, where did my short term memory go?

It was lost in the bustle and flow

My thoughts were brilliant but fleeting

The damned snow it just kept on sleeting

Busy, run, busy, run, busy, run

 

Oh, where did my energy go?

Paperwork is endless you know

I’m a sorter extraordinaire

But these documents are really a bear

Busy, sort, busy, sort, busy, sort

 

Oh, where did my blogging posts go?

You’re checking and I’ve nothing to show

I promise that shortly

I’ll post more often than quart’ly

Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy

Warning: long, inner-angst post below.

So, next month will be the two year anniversary of this blog (holy frijoles! (does it count if you take a multi-month break in the middle?))  and I’m torn.  I greatly enjoy the people I’ve gotten to know and enjoy a place to talk, vent, whatever about stuff, but I feel as though the original goal of the blog hasn’t been achieved.

My goal has never been, nor will be, to be a large blog or whatever.  My goal was to get more comfortable putting ME out there.  You’ll notice I write under a psuedonym, so clearly that goal was somewhat limited from the outset.  But, I do know that if I were writing under my name, and thus directly googlable, as opposed to requiring some minimum form of advanced querying to i.d. me, I’d probably completely silence myself.

I started here after a disastrous attempt to write a novel.  I outlined that novel (a mystery) and read over a dozen books on plot and character, etc.  I even have a couple books on poisons and guns (which will probably convict me if anyone I know dies under mysterious circumstances).  Can I tell you, it was the most gawd-awful thing on the planet, particularly once I started with the actual first draft.  So I stepped back and decided that the problem was that I had decided I should write a mystery simply because I enjoy them so much, when none of the ideas for stories running through my head had ever been a mystery.  From there, I figured that I also hated my main character because despite her tragic circumstances (all the books tell you that the character must have challenges beyond the immediate plot so she was under extremely trying cirucmstances) she was flat and uninteresting.  And that, I decided, was due to the fact that I couldn’t figure out what she really cared about because if I could set that out it might reveal to much about what I cared about.  Characters are not necessarily or even usually portraits of oneself, but for my first protaganist, I was sticking close to home.

So, having discovered blogs, I thought, why not?  This will force me to get ME out there and all my twisted thoughts.  Once I’m comfortable sharing my darkest fears, I’ll be able to write a character’s darkest fears. Except, I haven’t really put myself out there. 

I think some of this, if I can over-psycho-analyze for a moment, is due to moving a LOT when I was young (I went to seven schools between K and 5th grade).  If I’d been a military brat, it would’ve been easier, surrounded by a lot of other kids in a similar state.  But I wasn’t.  I was the kid of a single mom who was trying to figure out what she wanted to do which led to: going to grad school; doing an internship; looking for better jobs and leaving jobs because of  asshole bosses.   

Anyway, my way of coping was to always try to fit in by looking for the thing I had in common with the group and running with it, even if it wasn’t my favorite thing.  As a result, I’ve ended up being a bit like what people used to accuse Bill Clinton of in the 90s, of being driven by wanting people to like me and not exclude me.  

This tendency has an impact on my writing (among other things) in that I write with fear that I might alienate someone  or piss someone off.  So I don’t write about the inner me — I write surface and fluff.   On the other hand, surface and fluff is often, at one level, what helps explain the day to day that connects me with the people out in the blogosphere. Blagh.  I go around in circles.

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird – a book about the writing life which dozens of people had recommended to me, but I had never gotten around too.  It’s hilarious and very reassuring to newbie writers.

Anyway, in this little tangent on god, and  people she finds irritating, she quotes a priest friend of hers who says, “You know you’ve created God in your own image when he hates the same people you do.”

Perfect.  This perfectly describes the view of certain evangelical fundamentalists who ignore the ‘love thy neighbor’ teachings of their savior and use their view of god to spew hate and anti-compassion everywhere to anyone who doesn’t comply with their narrow view of the world.

And, I’m the furthest thing from an expert on the bible, but my recollection of the original biblical phrase that is purposely misphrased above is that it is we who are created in god’s image, not vice versa.  So a nice little play on words there.  Delicious!

The purpose and goal of my hiatus was to give me more time and fewer distractions in my effort to write a book in the range of 50,000 words.  Between mid-April when mr. jolt’s travel ended for the semester and mid-August, when it starts up again, I had 12 weeks or so, not counting some weeks spent traveling with family.  So, a little less than 5000 words a week.  No problemo, right?  My spring and summer progress:

Week 1: Develop walking pneumonia, spend evening in ER and several days in bed; no writing accomplished.

Week 2-3: Umm, not sure what happened here.  Must’ve still been recovering from pneumonia.  Or there were multiple end of school year evening events and t-ball games. Or something. Oh, yeah, now I remember, freshly recovered from pnuemonia, I spent a couple of weeks doing road trips for work making fascinating (not) presentations all over the state.  No writing accomplished. 

Week 4: 1200 words in one night, most I’ve written in one sitting in over a year.  Written while sitting in the third row of my minivan in a local park b/c the public library closes too early and the law library is closed evenings b/c of end of semester.

Week 5: 2500 words in one night.  But I’m still not getting my act together to do some minimal level of writing on other nights of the week.  Once again, written in the back of the minivan.

Week 6: Finally, back at my favorite carrel in the law library where I am tempted by the internet access and spend three hours doing internet research and copying various pages into some notes (with attribution for future reference) for my book. Virtually zero words (500), but useful b/c I finally got north and south straight in the location I’m writing about.

Week 7: Second week at the law library.  Still not nearly as productive as I was in the back of the minivan.  Contemplate making back of minivan semi-permanent writing nook (is this what Woolf meant by a room of one’s own?  Maybe she should have tried a minivan) Decide that too damn hot to sit in parked car at this point in season.  Keep in mind for fall writing efforts. 1200 words

Week Off: Travel West.  Great fun; trail horse ride, mini golf, staring at beautiful mountains, leave mr. jolt at conference and travel home with kids by myself and uninvited head cold.  Kids were great. (more on trip later)

Week 8: Trying again in the law library.  Must ignore internet.  Mixed success, but I force myself to sit until I’m up to 1800 words.  Also write guest post for tonk’s site.  Overall, fairly productive.

Week 9: Make mistake of eating pasta before heading to library to work.  Very full and sleepy.  Start writing up this account of the summer to remind me of how quickly the clock is ticking.  Figure that I am 70% done with available writing nights, but at only 10% of my goal.  Become convinced that I am a permanent slacker who will never accomplish anything.  Resolve to write something tonight, dammit. 1800 words.

Week 10: Find list of pending areas of my book to work on completely uninspiring. Decide that my problem is that I don’t have any real idea what I’m doing. Spend 15 minutes searching for local creative writing classes.  Give up.  If I were a teen, plenty of options, but no one around here is supporting the struggling adult writer.  Stumble across some interactive online courses.  Take ‘tour’ of online class.  Become totally bewitched by list of classes and online set up.  Look at all those enthusiastic quotes from former students.  Look at price tag: yikes! Balance desire v. pocketbook.  Balance desire v. concern over how to fit in 10 week class while mr. jolt has his last completely insane semester (oh if I had spotted these at the beginning of the summer!).  Balance $ v. fact that mr. jolt has been dropping a heckuva lot more on his phd courses (of course, he will actually get a degree at the end).  Know that mr. jolt will say go for it because (a) he really is supportive like that; and (b) he is semi-irresponsible fiscally at times. 1050 words.

Week 11: Decide to defragment my hard drive which is really effing slow.  It takes almost an hour and makes no appreciable difference.  Go back to online writing course site to drool.  Discover shorter introductory (cheaper!!) course.  Plan to register for six week course starting mid-August (which will of course overlap with one of the craziest times of the year – start of mr. jolt’s school; start of boy’s school; soccer practice 2-4 nights a week). 1300 words

Week 12: I have signed up for my writing course!  It starts mid-August and runs six weeks.  While I did not accomplish all I wanted to accomplish this summer, I did manage over 11,000 words in less than 48 hours (spread out over a few months).  I’m hoping that a return to blogging, and the need to submit stuff to class will help me create a more regular writing schedule (i.e., more than once a week).  The book that I started I plan to use bits and pieces of in this writing course, which if it goes well, I will take a writing course focused on that type of book.  But, I do think that realizing that trying to write without some instruction and feedback, at this point, is pretty pointless, and that realization and the fact that I actually got the nerve to sign up for a course is, for me, enough.

As you may have guessed by the dwindling posts, the tone of recent belly-gazing utterances, the random bursts of attempts to discuss topics that are non-self-absorbed, this has been a blog suffering from an existential crisis (assuming I know what that means).

I spent 13 hours in a car last weekend (to and from a 40th bday party) which gave me ample time for reflection: on my goals, my writing, and why the twain have not yet met.  I have often been inspired by NaNoWriMo where people feverishly write novels, of at least 50,000 words or 175 pages in the space of one month.  I’ve often thought them insane for picking November, which is not only a short month at 30 days, but has a major holiday stuck at the end which often entails family obligations.

Starting in the last week of April, I have about 12 weeks of summer in which I will be afforded a writing night – about four hours, after work – before mr. jolt’s crazy fall schedule prevents it once again.  My goal: to do at least the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in that 12 weeks.  Obviously, I’ll need more than the four hours a week to get there, but I’m hoping the time-pressure will push me to write, even on those nights where I can’t sit down to write until after 9:30. 

I plan to spend the next few weeks fleshing out some stuff in anticipation of the writing bonanza.  So, I will bid you adieu, with hopes of rejoining the world as a blogger in mid-August, full of tales of my writing conquests.    I will be popping in around y’all’s sites, so I won’t be totally absent.  I hope all y’all have a wonderful summer.

Cheers! j0lt

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