I’ve come to the realization that sometimes you’re just going to write shit.
I’ve been having a lot of writer’s issues lately – not writer’s block. I have plenty of ridiculous and inappropriate ideas for blogs and other things, ideas that I feel a need to email myself at various intervals throughout the day and subsequently file electronically. Rather, I feel like my sentences are starting to sound the same. That the cadence I felt confident producing in earlier “works” – so obnoxious – isn’t coming easily, if at all. My patience for flushing out is minus negative. And instead of editing – the second most important part of the writing process, you know, outside of writing – I just want to free-write and publish whatever comes out. And we all know our first drafts are crap.
The relationship between a writer and her work is a lot like that between the partners in a marriage. Sometimes things are going really well – the TV schedule works for both of you; you’re both good with the home temp around 70 degrees; the dishes are getting done. Other times, you kinda wonder if there’s something wrong because the perfect relationship isn’t so perfect anymore – perhaps the honeymoon period is over. Forever. Never to return – not even after the kids leave the house.
In these times, the best thing I can do for myself as a writer is refuse to write. I know some writers – Ray Bradbury comes to mind – write/wrote every day. I think that practice is beautiful, and I also think it’s necessary that you write through the shit. But sometimes you just don’t have the energy for the shit. And I’m lazy. A few days away from the blank page or computer screen can do us good, and it gives us the perspective we need to see what works and what doesn’t in what we’ve written.
Writers believe – perhaps because the time component is different for writing than it is for, say, training for an athletic event – that everything we write when we have time to write should be perfect. This then spills over into pieces that are time-sensitive. That effing book review – the one I have two hours to complete and which will hopefully bring new readers to this blog – has to be as good as a blog post I have worked on for a week. (And no, I’ve never worked on a blog post for a week – the content here makes that pretty obvi. Please go with it.) Cohesiveness just doesn’t happen in a journalistic time crunch, and I constantly turn in things that don’t feel done. But maybe nothing ever feels done. As I proofread this blog post, I can’t help but think of everything I’ve left out, my unwillingness to outline and include it and – perhaps most terrifyingly – the post’s seemingly magical ability to convey that I’ve been watching too much Charlie Rose.
I think it’s important to look at the utility of writing in these scenarios. Why do we write? Why do we read? For the writer, writing is an active way to gain clarity, and perhaps it’s even a way for an author to feel powerful in a world that can render her powerless. And the reader is able to identify with something when he is completely open and vulnerable, unafraid of a personal attack because only he knows how he reacts to the work. It’s been said that this is how we find the unconscious threads that tie us together as human beings. This, in addition to engaging in beautiful conversations and drunken nights with friends and strangers, is how we connect. It’s vital then that we share our work sometime. (Or a sibling will “out” you after you die – proven time after time.)
Writing will always be a two-steps-forward-one-step-back thing for me. I hope one day to get back to that place where, after completing a piece, I feel like I have put a 20,000 piece jigsaw puzzle together and wrapped the end result in a bow (which would be weird and unnecessary). But these days writing is messy and gross. It’s wading through the mud looking for a lost contact lens. Sometimes the mud is just a little less muddy.