Friday, August 10, 2012

Going Public

So I found out that I got okayed by Speakeasy... which means I need to act like I'm really disciplined about writing on here. It may also mean that I WILL be more disciplined, as I have a direct incentive to do so: FREE BOOKS! Always a win. Much love to Jenny for the referral.

Of course I've sat here for a few minutes now, wondering what to write about, as I pretend that I write all the time. Two or three people this week have made some sort of, "Well, you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about..." comment, and I keep wanting to correct them. Being a writer isn't really very figurative--you either write or you don't, you either are or you aren't. And, when I get real about it, I don't. I'm not.

I used to write all the time. I couldn't stop. I wrote constantly for school, but would often need to backburner an assignment because my need to write--yeah, I said it--took me in a different direction, and I would scrawl out poetry or short prose from the front desk of the library until I got off from work. I would read what I'd written on my walk home, and then I'd burn the midnight oil to finish whatever actual, real assignment I had. I was a writer, above all other behavioral definitions. Third only to Christian and Romantic, I have always considered myself a writer foremost. But lately... Nothing. Why?

Sure, I "write" all the time: work emails, sales sheets, marketing copy. But that doesn't count and I know it. I've lost the habit, the discipline of it, and it seems oversimple to say that it's that easy but it is. When I do write now--writing for real, to borrow the title of a book from work--it takes an effort that it didn't before. There is no automatic flow, there is no surprise at the way words have flown from brain to paper or screen with a speed and subconscious grace that used to be normal. There is pondering now. Scratching out. Rethinking. Crumbling up and throwing away. There is expectation of excellence and a reality of... less than that. And it's all part of the process, and blah blah blah, but it's irksome--that's really the best word for it.

It's not painful, the way not-writing used to be painful. It doesn't build up as pressure in my head or a tremor in my hand. It can be backburnered now, with "real" work taking priority. It can be ignored and forgotten for weeks at a time. This is the thing that I thought would be my life's passion, my career and my calling, my bread on the table and my pat on the back. This thing, I can let die like the plants on my back step: shriveled and skinny and parched because I never look at them, let alone care for them.

I miss it. I miss having that Thing. The "Oh, I work in marketing, but my real passion is---" Thing. All the great characters have that line. And I used to. Don't get me wrong, there are benefits to this: I really do love my job, more than I ever expected to love the 9-5 thing. I expected--planned--to do something to earn the rent, and then hurry home to do what I love. And so when I thoroughly enjoy doing what I do at work, does that change what I can do at home? I would trust the answer is no--but my life says otherwise.

There are basic ways to shift this back into gear. Again, it's not complicated. More time reading and less on Netflix. More time sitting down in front of the blank page and pushing through the door of "that's not important enough." Getting plugged in to a group of writers. None of these things are hard, or expensive, or sacrificial.

So why don't I do them?

Step 1: Going public. Accountability--which is an awfully fancy word for requesting a guilt trip--can go a long way. So I'm publicizing this a little more than usual.

So if you're new to my bloggy-blog, HI. Welcome. Take a look around. Comment. And make me feel like a jerk if I haven't written in the next 3 days. (That goes for you, too, regulars.) Seriously. A jerk.


  1. Once again, I marvel at how alike we are. I feel the SAME way about writing. It used to be how I thought through and made sense of everything. Do I not think much anymore or has my thinking gone more shallow, or what? I don't know. I mean, I am pretty occupied by kids, husband, all the daily chores, work, etc. But there is that still small voice that says, "You have things to say. SAY THEM. Write!"
    My friend Melissa Madenski (herself a published poet and author) has told me, "Jenny, you have to write, and you WILL write. You won't be able to stop yourself any more than other people try to stop breathing or eating." And I think she is right, but I don't write as often as I used to.
    Speaking of Speakeasy, I"m dangerously close to my 30 day mark (maybe already exceeded it) with a novel I ordered. I really shouldn't have ordered a novel...what was I thinking?! A children's book is nice and short and easy to review; a novel is longer and something I haven't had much time to sit and read. Sigh sigh.
    Well, I'll try to keep poking you in the ribs (long distance, I've got quite an arm) about writing and feel free to do the same for me. Actually I got all inspired and did some writing yesterday because I'm trying to see if I can make a bit of money for the fam by doing some Christian freelance work. You should check out this website and see if it inspires you to submit some work somewhere.
    I submitted a few things, now just must wait for a while to hear back (hopefully). It seems absurd to hope that I would make any amount of money from writing; I also entered a story into a short story contest. But a lot of that is just my lack of self confidence trying to have its way. It can't hurt to try, right? Write? ha ha. It's also 3:47 AM here as I type this, and I'm awake because my frikkin flea bites on my leg are so itchy I'm putting an ice pack on them. I should go back to sleep soon.
    Anyway, much love awesome coz!

  2. I think there's a middle way between Jenny's friend's thought, "You have to write and you WILL write," and your self-evaluations about what does or does not make you a writer, little sister. For a start, the blog -- infrequent though it may be -- has forced you to write, and fairly often to write about writing. Which is, funnily enough, one subject that even less-than-stellar writers tend to write well about. Take Mark Buchanan, who I think meets a need in the church, but I'm certainly not his primary audience and I wouldn't rush to pick up another book of his. Yet see what he does in _The Holy Wild_ (Multnomah, 2003), p. 9:

    God made me "a monk's failed cousin, a writer. Both callings render you slightly odd, a man alone in a room, denying one part of his manhood in order to awaken another. Both force you to shape silence and darkness and waiting into prayer. Both teach you the agonies of silence and of speaking, and the way God's voice can brim in each. Both require you to listen much, pray much, study much, plow much. One demands you drink much wine, the other much coffee. I'll let you figure out which is which. Both are lonely vocations."

    I mean, yeah, you still need to recapture the discipline and the pain, as you put it, of writing as a habit, but give both room to grow, too. I did have to knuckle down and make myself write at least five days per week when I was in the heaviest year or so of dissertation work, and I was productive, but as you've seen, I've also become more productive lately in fiction-writing, and much of that has come quietly, slowly, finding the seed of One Good Idea and planting it and letting it grow until it was ready to tend (insert lots of stuff here from Jesus' parables, about growth being beyond the farmer's control; or think Rom 4:17, a verse that has meant a lot to me lately, that God is the one "who gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence").

    You're a writer; you will write; you are writing; you will write more.
    I love you (both)!