Posted Monday, September 15th, 2003
The Importance of Writing Every Day
10:13 a.m. OK, time to write. All the books on writing say the most important thing is doing it every day. Starting today, Iím going to do it every single day. I was planning to start yesterday, but I had cramps, a movie to watch, laundry to do Ö But today is Sunday and my last chance until next weekend. Wait, weíre going to be out of town next weekend, so really itís my last chance for two more weeks, so important to get some writing done.
Geez my computer takes a long time to boot up. I really need to get a new one. Thatís one reason I donít write much, the computer takes so long to boot up, and itís old, Iím always worried that everything Iíve written will be lost when the computer dies, like Carrieís does in that Sex and the City episode.
Iíve been writing since I was seven, when I wrote a short story about a Chinese family with three sets of twins. I donít remember the plot, just that I reveled in using the word ďpagodaĒ (never mind that I had the family living in the pagoda, I hadnít learned the second most important rule of writing, research) and making up sets of rhyming names for the twins. When I was eleven, I wrote a story about an eleven-year old girl saving America by foiling the Russians when her plane, bearing nuclear warheads is hijacked (yes, I was a child during the Cold War, and yes, the protagonist was based on myself). My dad said, ďYou are a writer,Ē and from that moment on, I thought I was one.
I havenít finished that many stories. Five full ones since adulthood; a myriad unfinished. I am stuck on page sixteen of my novel (can I call it a novel with only sixteen pages?). I definitely donít write every day. I do write in my journal about four times a week, all my thoughts that I feel are worthy of recording, although sometimes, reading it, the epiphanies donít seem as deep, the despair sounds like petty whining. But if I were a real writer, I wouldnít let anything stop me. I would write every day, in every free moment. Perhaps Iím really not a writer after all. I mean, if I were a bona fide writer, would I be stuck in the first chapter of The Sound and the Fury for twelve years? How can I be a Southern writer if I donít cut my teeth on Faulkner?
I am not a writer.
Aha! Neuroses! Something all writers have in common, and that I have. Watching Adaptation, I marveled at Charlie Kaufmanís thoughts, maniacally negative: ďIím fat, I canít write, Iím sweating.Ē I said, ďThatís what it sounds like in my head!Ē My boyfriend looked at me askance, pityingly. He then fell asleep, bored by neuroses and the writing process. Which made me feel lonely, which is another requirement for a writer. Neuroses, check, loneliness, check.
Adaptation was a wonderful movie. The screenplay blurred the lines between fact and fiction, ridiculed Hollywood, showed growth and compromise as a writer (and it had twins, although if I had written it, their names wouldíve rhymed). I could do that, I think. It would be awesome to write a book, have it turned into a movie with Meryl Streep in it. I loved the part when, high on orchid dust, she attempted the perfect dial tone. She was great in The Hours, too. Why didnít I write that? I mean, I read Mrs. Dalloway and felt her predicament. I realized the latent homosexuality, the choices that would be available to her now, the importance of choosing life, whatever that means to you. I love the idea of rewriting history from womens' perspective, have ever since I read Wide Sargasso Sea. Why didnít I write that book? Dammit! Dammit!
One thing I donít like about writing with a word processor is that the spell check freaks me out. Itís underlined both ďdammitĒs with a red squiggly line, it just did it again. I mean, thatís colloquial, writers should be free to be colloquial. Iím trying to describe my real life thoughts here and Microsoft Word is working against me. Why did it underline the exclamation points? Although, Stephen Kingís book On Writing says not to use exclamation points. But, I like exclamation points, thatís how I think, with lots and lots of exclamation points. I feel unsure now, and I hate that. Actually, I feel unsure most of the time. I really need to get some confidence. Or maybe itís just lack of caffeine. Coffee would help.
1:37 p.m. OK, I got some coffee. Or, I went downstairs to get some coffee and we were out, even though I went to the grocery store yesterday. How am I supposed to be a writer with all these endless domestic demands? So, I decided to go to the closest coffee shop to get a mocha. I am back two hours later. I just got one of Natalie Goldbergís latest books. The coffee made my stomach hurt, so Iím going to lie down and read this book, itís written by a writer, on writing, so it will be writing in a way, in that it will help me the next time I sit down to write, right? Plus, another important thing to do if you are a writer, according to Stephen King, is read, read, read.
9:22 p.m. (Where did this day go?) I highly recommend Thunder and Lightning; it was great, but I fell asleep after the first two chapters (I learned that Zen helps with writingómaybe I should look into taking some classesóit is hard to make yourself write, but if you want to write, you will. Important to do it every day.) and took a three-hour nap. Shit, shit, shit. Then, I ended up cooking dinner, I mean, my boyfriend has been outside mowing and working in the yard all day, I canít just let him come in and make his own meal, although he offers to, since Iíve been busy ďwritingĒ all day. I am overcome with guilt, shame, and the weight of the world. So, I bake some chicken and sautť some cabbage, wondering all the while if my life is being wasted by mundane chores and why I am allowing this to happen, slowly, daily? Why donít I just write? I burn myself with chicken grease and drop a plate on my foot. I am overcome with despair.
ďHow was your day?Ē my sweet, normal, non-writing boyfriend asks. I ponder telling him how guilty and horrible I feel. How I squandered my time, threatening my identity with every word not written, spent money I donít have on a new book in a vain search for the answer to making myself write and a fat-filled, stomachache of a mocha. How I took a three-hour nap while he was being a responsible homeowner. ďFine,Ē I say, with a crocodile smile. ďI got a lot done.Ē
Then, I hobble upstairs, to get ďa lot done,Ē so that I wonít feel guilty or be a liar.
11:30 p.m. In two hours, I write three paragraphs of my ďnovel.Ē By this time, it is late, and I must go to sleep, because I am getting up early tomorrow morning to write before I go to work. I am a writer, and it is important for me to write every day.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Jaf Funjac on Monday, September 15th, 2003 at 2:40 PM
This essay nails what goes through the head of every person that's ever taken a creative writing class. It's written more candidly and humorously than most could hope to achieve. Congratulations, you are a writer indeed!
Posted by Stacey Evans on Monday, September 15th, 2003 at 3:07 PM
Everyday I fight with the idea of being an artist. The inner turmoil of this story is one I relate to in so many ways. Would I be driven more by art if I did not pursue commerical work and could not pay the bills? Is that what it means to be an artist? I have dedicated one day a week to create or continue a piece of art. That often gets pushed back when the paying jobs come. However, when I'm stopped at that traffic light I stop every day, I make myself see the next piece of work. I envision the next step in the process. I know when I pull up that next piece of art which direction to follow. It might change but at least I have that first step. Your mind in the strongest tool in the creative process.
Posted by Sarovar Banka on Thursday, November 20th, 2003 at 2:12 PM
I very much understand what you are going through. When someone, very possibly my girlfriend asks me, "How was your day?", I usually have no answer for that question. I feel as though writing locks you in a world of halfway accomplishment because your goals are so longterm that rarely do you feel as though you've done anything significant. Right now, I'm a year or so out of college struggling to be a writer while many of my friends and getting jobs and additional qualifications and seemingly "moving ahead."
I think one key may be to set smaller goals for yourself. You don't have to finish your novel tomorrow but at least try to get a page done. Wow, now it really sounds like I'm reciting from a "how to" write book. Well, here's my own addition. It's helped me lately to try to be tough on myself about writing but not about my ideas. That is, I only get mad at myself is I don't sit down to write but I don't get mad at myself if I write badly. Which seems to happen a lot these days, as I've devoted more time to my writing.
Writing is so personal that it's hard to seperate yourself from it. But in the end, I think you are you and not what you create. It's just hard to remember that.