Oct 14, 2007 14

The creeping, creeping bar

high jump

It is Sunday.

Late in the week, late in the day. For lady-reasons I won’t get into, I’ve dramatically reduced my caffeine intake of late so it seems even later. And then there was that falafel for lunch, that pizza and beer for dinner. They didn’t do much to perk me up and put me in a writin’ mood.

There was also that vacation last week. Holy crap, that vacation. Which was great and wonderful and inspiring and realigning and all that good stuff, but did nothing for my work ethic. If anything, it drop-kicked it into the toilet and flushed twice (the cafeteria’s a long way away, as the saying goes.)

But let’s put food and rest and chemical imbalance out of the way, shall we? Because we know, or I do, and you will shortly, that none of these things are to blame for my reduced output of late, either here or elsewhere.

It’s success, pure and simple.

For whatever reason, I’ve had a good run lately here on el bloggito. Not that anything’s felt particularly good while I’m writing it, to the contrary, I’ve trembled the last few times I hit the “publish” button because I’ve wondered whether it was too: too angsty, too revealing, too showy, too plain, too revealing, too remote. And yet I’ve been getting some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten, or gotten in a row. So what do you do for an encore when the medium demands one every…day? Two days? Week? Two weeks?

It’s this damned competitive streak in me, is what it is. Even when there’s no one to compete against, I compete against myself. A good speech or meeting or job can’t just be enjoyed for what it is, not when it’s really and truly good. Instead, it becomes the new yardstick by which all subsequent things will be judged. Especially the next one. A few times this past month, I have literally said a little prayer of thanksgiving that I did not meet with huge success in my youth, in Hollywood, in wherever. Few people have the head for it, and I’m not one of them. My head is so damned big naturally, it threatens to take over all the screen real estate available, at least vertically (moon-faced, I’m not.)

Of course, the flip side of big ego is no ego. All good or no good. There is precious little enjoyment of the “all” when you are intimate with the “no”. “No” always lurks quietly in the background, ready to take you out with one swift, silent swoop of the baseball bat. And the higher the bar gets, the better you do, the worse the fear.

Some people, as I understand it, do not live with this. Good for you! Seriously, I would wish this on no one. It’s mine to deal with, and the dealing with has gotten easier overall as time has worn on.

Still, there’s that next job. That next speech. That next blog post. It shouldn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, really, not a whit, but there it is.

So it was with a heavy heart that Guilt and I made our usual way to the library on Friday. Another week, another seven days without those three chapters written. (That speech. That @#&* blog post.) We wandered to the new arrivals section and there were a few slim volumes of interest: that book Nora Ephron wrote about her neck, another from Walter Mosley about writing, period. We grabbed the first for schadenfreude and the second for instructions.

And the very first instruction?

The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do every day, every morning or every night, whatever time it is that you have.

Nothing new here, folks. The man is right. “There’s no time to wait for inspiration.” This sitting around fretting is as much a waste of good time as watching television. And we know how I feel about that.

This post may not be my best. Nor the next. Nor, sadly, the next 50. I may never, ever write a story as compelling as those I’ve already written. It’s a risk I will have to take, every time I sit down to write again. I may suck, you may disappear, the best may all be behind us.

That does not relieve me, or you, for that matter, of putting pen to paper, metaphoric or otherwise, every morning of every day, just the same.

It is the doing. It is the trying. It is the showing up.

If we stop creating, we cease to exist. Or we just exist. And what’s the fun of that? I’d much rather be here than have been here, no matter what levels of perfection are involved.

Well, okay. That’s pretty much a total lie. But I’m going to keep showing up, all the same.

Hope you will, too…

xxx
c

Image by Ambrosio Photography via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted in: The Personal Ones

jamesfinngarner October 15, 2007 at 6:45 am

I met Walter Moseley about 13 years ago at a radio station, and he gave me the exact same admonition: Write every single day. And that morning he was jet-lagged and later in the day headed to Prague for a PEN convention. So he was more than a little busy with the business side of writing, and he still looked me in the eye and told me what I needed to do.

Have I done it? Nope, but at least I know what I’m doing wrong.

spike October 15, 2007 at 9:12 am

If you keep sharing your personal insights, thoughts, pains, and passions, people will continue to be interested.

I have found that articulating my times of personal struggle and angst often elicit more response than my “everything is great” posts. Not a big surprise really.

Sometimes I think of blogging the same way I do drawing and taking pictures. There more you produce, the more likely some will stand out. This implies that the majority are “just OK”. And like you said, that’s OK.

I found your “young one” comment flattering. At school, and even at work, I tend to be older (at 35) than most of my peers. A bunch of pups I say. But you’re 11 years older than me. Not enough to be my mother…maybe an aunt, but more likely a sister. That’s not so bad.

Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk October 15, 2007 at 10:16 am

“Play your part well and let go of the results.” I came across that Hindu mantra when I was in high school, and it struck me as the only sane way to go through life. So my poor competitive/controlling streak gets bopped on the head whenever it starts to show up. It still keeps trying from time to time. So I sympathize with what you’re going through.

My favorite affirmation is “Writing is the highlight of my day.” When I get in the doldrums I focus loving what I do. Trying to drive myself doesn’t work for me, getting enthusiastic does.

Don’t worry about frequency. Subscribers will tune in when you choose to post.

communicatrix October 15, 2007 at 11:41 am

JFG – Man, how much do I love that he walks the walk. Thanks for sharing that. And yeah, it does make it clearer who’s holding that gun pointed at your foot.

spike – We do like the angsty ones more, it seems. Maybe something to do with that old Tolstoy bromide about happy families’ similarity. Kinda dull, not too revealing. Who’d go to the movies to watch a show where everyone is happy for two hours? Life is about overcoming obstacles, like it or not, so that’s what we like to read about, I guess.

Jean – Nice mantra! I have a post-it on my monitor that says “Is it for you or is it for glory?” which is kind of the same thought, only meaner. And who needs to be meaner to oneself?

annie October 15, 2007 at 4:39 pm

You keeping writing is making me think of keeping writing. Thank you.

claire October 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Geez, now I feel a little guilty I haven’t finished writing about my recent beach vacation yet. Such a different coastline here in the East.

After a post(s) I’m really proud of, it is hard to continue sometimes, but part of that is a blog thing. I don’t want to bury something good with junk. For me it helps to keep track of my fave posts on a ‘best of’ page linked in my sidebar. Knowing they are only a click away to anyone interested helps me keep moving forward.

Laura Moncur October 15, 2007 at 10:37 pm

These things go in phases or waves. You’ve written a few really good series. Sometimes you just need to rest.

Let yourself do something else like draw, write fiction or take photos. Post them instead. Keep creating, but remember that you need “just sits” time just as much as you need productive time.

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”
Satchel Paige (1906 – 1982)

Ritergal October 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm

I wish I could remember the URL for the comforting website I read a few days ago that flooded my troubled soul with the reassuring news that once or twice a week is an ideal pace for a blog. More than that burns out readership. This blessed balm assuaged all guilt. Twice a week? I can do that! So can you! (I never did strive for more than three.)

But even before that, I had come to grips with the thing about writing *every* day. In a word, “Balderdash!” I blogged about that at http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/2007/10/real-writing-versus-virtual.html.

Not an hour passes in my life that I’m not writing, virtually, if not actually, and I feel entirely safe saying the same is true for you.

So, ta-ta! (sound of tinkly chimes in background) I just sprinkled your blog with magic muse dust that makes it guilt-free forever. Now, what will you do with the rest of your angst?

Blog on!

vahid October 16, 2007 at 8:54 pm

I’m glad you’re going to keep showing up. I lurk far more than I comment but I absolutely love your blog.

communicatrix October 17, 2007 at 9:04 am

annie – Somehow, I feel like one of the main reasons I’ve been put here is to keep people like you writing. Don’t let me down, sister!

claire – Thanks for the encouragement/support AND the best-of thought. It’s such a simple thing, yet so helpful to readers. I’m going to schedule it in for a Saturday soon. The thought of going through 3 years of my long-ass posts makes me sleeeeeepy.

Laura – Excellent advice. Excellent quote. Excellent ideas. Thanks!

Ritergal – I wish you could, too! I feel like it’s always time to feed the beast. But maybe esp. with my long-ass posts (cf above), it’s better to give people time to rest.

vahid – You lurk as much as you like, my friend. It’s worth it to me whenever you come out to leave such a nice comment!

dailytri October 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

Sometimes thoughts (whether spoken or written) don’t have to be great to be meaningful. You always convey meaning, and perhaps that’s what makes you so great.

Benjamin October 17, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Your post is a good reminder to me that writing is a skill, and like all other skills it gets better with practice. Practice means you keep doing it, and keep watching how well you are doing it. I am enjoying reading your posts!

Wasn’t it Woody Allen that said 80% of success is just showing up? :)

Jeri October 18, 2007 at 8:06 pm

I’ve been hooked on your blog for the past few months and your writing always amazes me. You are the reason I started my own. Even in a “simple” blog post you make me feel what you’re feeling, whether it despair, amusement, contentment or anxiety.
It doesn’t matter if we wait two days or two weeks for a blog post, they are always worth reading.

communicatrix October 21, 2007 at 6:27 am

dailytri – Thank you. It’s reassuring to know that something is getting across. Maybe that’s how you know that you are — when you’re not 100% sure, when you have some confusion and doubt. If I’m too confident it was all making sense, maybe that’s a sign it there’s some showboating going on: it’s not really from the heart. Interesting.

Benjamin – Amen to that. Have you *seen* my college papers? Or, hell–have you seen the early posts on this blog? Brrrr…

Jeri – How nice of you to say so! Nothing makes me happier than inspiring other people to create and instigate change. Thank you.

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