The hardest thing I did all weekend, the hardest thing I'll do all week

young man napping on foam bedding on ground

On Saturday night, I went to bed at 8:30pm.1

I didn't go to sleep at 8:30; it took me a full hour and a half of fighting myself to do that, with an assist from the back third of Breaker Morant and the front quarter of John Adams. Still, me, in bed by 8:30 on any night is tremendous. That I had just set the goal for myself that very day to be in bed by 8pm and only missed it by a half-hour was icing on the cake.

I am not quite done unpacking all of the reasons why it's so hard for me to call it a day, even on a weekend, but I have a short list:

  1. I was an only child for five and a half years. I grew up around grown-ups, and was treated like one, albeit a short, ignorant one. That treatment very reasonably ended at my being able to partake in certain grown-up activities, such as operating a motor vehicle and consuming adult beverages and staying up past 8pm and fire. So now, I'LL SHOW THEM. (I know, I know. A genius of logic, I am not. Still, I love driving, liquor and espresso, and my place is lousy with candles and incense, so at least I'm consistently illogical.)
  2. I am an overachiever. With a crippling case of eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome, time-wise. I always, always, always think I can get more done in a day than I can, and much less than is reasonable. So I feel like I should have gotten more done, always, and I feel like the answer to actually doing it is just pushing harder and harder, rather than revising my notions of what is right and proper.
  3. I am human. I want "me" time, or rather, "me, unplugged" time. Me-not-worky time. Me-veg-out time. And since I am relentless and/or a nimrod, time-management-wise, right up until I hit my limit, I insist on treating myself to whoop-dee-do time at night, by which time I'm so exhausted all my body wants to do is rest up for the next day of battle with my will. "Whoop-dee-do" equals an adult beverage and/or TV, since I am still dealing with my inner five-and-a-half-year-old's unmet needs.

So. Even though I missed the mark by a half-hour and spent my wind-down time consuming video entertainment, I'm calling it progress. Hard-won. Hard, period.

At the same time I'm tackling this staying-up-late/overexerting-myself nonsense, I'm also dealing with a surprise problem. It's so ridiculous, I'm embarrassed to say it, or, rather, I've been too embarrassed to say it in the two weeks since I discovered it. Now, I'm saying it:

I do not know how to rewrite.

Does that look like nothing to you? Look again:

I am a writer. I have made my living writing. I have had things I've written performed on professional stages. I have written a monthly column for actors, one in which I not infrequently stress the necessity of working incessantly at one's craft, for over four years. I have written posts on this very blog for over six years. Just this summer, I helped teach a teleclass about writing.2 And I do not know how to rewrite.

I will go into the long and boring and painful story of my revelation another day.3 For now, what is relevant and necessary to share is this: there's always something to do next. ALWAYS. I watched some of a documentary about Ram Dass. In it, he talks about his stroke, and how his reaction as he was having it was the opposite of spiritual. As someone on the spiritual path, he gave himself an "F". So he's working with his teacher, the stroke, to learn more stuff.


Anyway, once you're on the other side of whatever morass you need to see your way through, you might see how that's a good thing. Bumping up against trouble and working your way through it, on the other hand, requires vast stores of energy and patience. I'm running short on the former these days, and I've never had much of the latter.

Changing these things, my relationship to time, my ability to rewrite, may also change how I approach the blog. I'm finally ceding to the reality of finite amounts of time and energy, and I really, really, really want to get some more complex and intricate forms of writing out into the world. Books take vast amounts of time, and fuckloads of rewriting. It's one thing to dash off a pretty good first draft of a 1,000-word piece; it's another to do the same for a 60,000-word memoir. There is no dashing that.

As I move forward, then, I suppose I will do what I can do, and what I've done thus far: share what I can, when it is useful. It's just that prior to this alarming discovery, "can" had a lot more to do with my ability to process than my levels of energy or my available hours. It should be an interesting six months, if I remain committed to this new learning.

In the meantime, one thing I am very interested in doing is immersing myself in the techniques and mindset of rewriting, if there are any. An initial couple of searches didn't turn up much, which intrigues me. If writing is rewriting, shouldn't there be a lot more writing about rewriting? Or maybe there is, and I've blinded myself to it.

I have enlisted actual help in this, by the way. My writing-group buddy (we're down to just two of us) is, as it turns out, as good at rewriting as I am bad at it. And she's a mom, so she's got the patience thing down.

Still. You know. Resources and stories of how you licked the problem would be most welcome at this juncture.


1And please, don't waste one second feeling sorry for me being home on a Satiddy night. First, I am 49, I've had a million of 'em. Second, Saturday night? Feh. It's second only to New Year's Eve and most Sundays in line for the title of "Worst Night to Go Out, Ever."

2Despite my inadequacies, the stuff I did talk about, I actually knew something about. The course is really good, with tons of great information and exercises and practices, so if you're looking for a self-directed course on writing, I highly recommend you check it out. And yes, I make money if you buy through that link. Or this one! Or this one! I wrestle with it inside, this affiliate-linking thing, and I need to write up a formal policy and make explicit my reasons for affiliate-linking (or not). But for now, know that it's just that, and Amazon, and Groupon that I link to that way. Period.

3But just to head off certain questions at the pass, the reason I've been able to skate for so long is two-fold. First, like some autistic savant or functional illiterate, I used the superpowers and will I did have to get really, really good at writing a first draft. My first drafts are not perfect, but they're better than plenty of people's second drafts to pass, and good enough for gov'mint work almost all of the time. Second, whenever I did need to rewrite, I had help, bosses, clients, art directors, fellow Groundlings, whatever. Even then, change was minimal and excruciating. Whatever the opposite of fun is, it was that. And if you don't believe me (although I don't know why you wouldn't, since I'm pretty frank on this here blog), a final kind of Q.E.D. is this set of footnotes: they exist because I'm not even going to try to fancy-first-draft this. I'm too tired to rewrite to get them into the draft, so they're just going, and staying, here.

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