Sometimes I go on the Internet when I should be writing. I know, it’s a startling confession, but it’s true. (Even now, I have my email screen open alongside my Word doc, so I guess I should just close it...wait...J Jill has a sale...)
What I tell myself in these situations is that I am looking for inspiration; a spark to ignite my neurons into firing so I can start or finish a piece that is giving me trouble. I get distracted for a while until I finally wrestle my attention back to the blank page. Or I’ll go get a snack. Either way, the diversion doesn’t typically pan out and I either spend money or gain weight. Except the time I checked out a new writer friend’s blog. She had been “tagged” to write about seven things her readers might want to know about her writing. I was desperate...I took the bait.
Seven things about my writing that readers might want to know.
1. I don’t believe that readers want to know anything about my writing. But I’m going to do this exercise anyway. My new friend AJ says it will make me think about my writing. Ugh...homework. I think I don’t like homework. And I don’t want to think too much about my writing. Processing my experiences through writing is how I make sense of my life. I like to leave that process alone and not mess with it too much.
2. I love to write more than anything else I do for myself. At least among the healthy things I do for myself.
3. I am not disciplined. As many times as I’ve been advised, even admonished, to create a writing schedule and stick with it, is as many times as I have not done so. I fit it in when suddenly the house is empty and I run upstairs to my office, glancing this way and that for unsuspecting duties, obligations or family members who might intercept me. I do not practice what I preach: I tell my writing students that they MUST have a commitment to a writing time even as I don’t.
4. My writing makes me feel confident. As a writer I am 5-foot-8 with a slim build and a closet full of Eileen Fisher clothes and black flats. My hair is not sticking out at all angles, but lies smooth against my head, with the ebbing blonde blending imperceptibly into the glimmering gray. As a writer, I am not clumsy. And I can dance...beautifully.
5. I love encouraging others to write and teaching my writing classes gives me almost as much of a thrill as getting my own writing done. I believe everyone can write and that it is a phenomenological process available to every thinking human being.
6. Finally publishing a book/having a dream come true is definitely worth the work and effort it took to bring it about. I recommend it. I love it when someone has read my book and takes the time to tell me that it made them think differently about something or do something new. Even the negative responses have been an opportunity for me to grow and learn about myself and that has been an unexpected and extraordinary lesson for me.
7. If I never publish another book, I will continue to write for myself. For me, writing is a way of understanding my passage through this world and is as essential as breathing to me. Although it is true that I could go a few days without writing and I would die if I went that long without breathing, the lack of writing shows up in my demeanor and my physical self. I can feel it when I don’t write for any length of time.
So, there you have it. A whole list written almost entirely without any side trips to the Internet. (It was a grammar check, I swear.) Thinking about my writing gave it form and function. Even as much as I’ve always loved my writing, I have a little more respect for the process now that I defined its importance in my life. It’s not a bad little exercise, now that I’ve completed it, and I’d recommend it to all you other writers out there, even if you don't have "readers" yet. You will someday. And, in a pinch, you can always use it for your next deadline.
Like I just did.