"I'm rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I'm tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we's comin from or goin to or why. I'm tired of people bein ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I'm tired of all the times I've wanted to help and couldn't. I'm tired of bein in the dark. Mostly it's the pain. There's too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can't.”
― Stephen King, The Green Mile
I didn't wake up feeling that. It took a whole 3 minutes of consciousness for it to hit. I looked out my upstairs window and saw that the security door of the house being repaired next to mine had been stolen. Yeah.
We constantly prey on each other. Sharks forever looking for meals. That's a terrible thought, terrible feeling, from the petty like stealing a door to sell for scrap, to the grotesque like, for instance, 99.9% of what we're daily fed.
It gets tiring, but you gotta call that shit out. You gotta write it, paint it, draw it, sing it, dance it, sculpt it, act it, journal it out of the cold, damp places that incubate it and into the circulating air. Calling it out gets tiring. It can even make you sick. It can trigger, upset, unnerve, or plain and simple frighten you into ennui. I wrote something years ago that, to this day, punches me straight in the gut when I revisit it. Its premise: what if the Inquisition had convinced people its agents could read minds? They'd get in there and make everything wrong in your life your fault, everything they termed sin, everything they termed weakness, every depravity they visited upon the world. A rape of the mind and spirit. Which would lead to a rape of the body. And accepting it.
Two truths to the world: (1) fear is not our natural diet; (2) we are not always hungry.
This isn't a post about fear, this is a post about action. What do we do when the world shatters glass inside our brains? I try to be precise with any suffering I write about. You'll never see death as window dressing, violence as pure entertainment, or brutalization as character builder. There are enough ringmasters of that. There are even certain things I can't write again. The empathic submersion needed for the Inquisition story took something oily and smoky out of me, drew it straight from hell like thread piercing heart and bone, and I don't need to see that particular ghoul any more, not when humans daily birth about a million more. The house next to mine is a rental property. It caught fire recently. The guy who owns it has been coming by evenings and nights after work putting his own sweat equity into cleaning it, fixing it, and keeping it from becoming an eyesore. Loads of time. Now he's got to add repairing a door frame and replacing a door. I suppose this post is about him and you and me and us being tired as hell of way too many things.
Has he thought of giving up and walking away from the property a hundred times? Yes. He's told me so. But he likes me. He said he wouldn't do that to me.
So we keep plodding on. I write stuff on Sunday mornings after seeing his door's gone. He fixes stuff and promises to keep our block as beautiful as his part of it can be. When you've no fear of the dark but of what people do in it, it's best to live your life like a giant flashlight. Blast the night away. Or deeper still, take a cue from trees. Trees see everything we do like god's unblinking eye.
Go outside one night and pay attention to what they're doing. They're wise and ancient. Even the young ones. They're not simply growing upward. They're pointing.
Been hearing a lot lately about Impostor Syndrome. Here's the thing: The only way you can be an impostor in writing is if you can't write but are given a huge wad of cash anyway. Which happens. Do you have a huge wad of cash? Can you write a good story? Congratulations! You're not an impostor! The fact that you're going to feel like you suck a lot does not an impostor make. Makes you human. Teachers think they suck. Counselors think they suck. Electricians think they suck. Politicians suck but rarely think it. The human race has a built-in 'I Suck' gene that operates on a whisper-touch hair trigger.
My friends, it is cool. I see you. You the writer. You. Painter. You. Essayist. Filmmaker. Comic artist. Even me when I look in a mirror. Even me.
Put the work in. Clock in. Be the thing. Be cool.
Some say if you keep to a writing schedule it takes the magic out of writing. First off, there is no magic in writing. Disavow yourself of that notion, sunshine. (Well, there is, but that's not where we are now.) Writing is mental work, accent on work. It doesn't simply come. You have to think, strategize, evolve and adapt a bunch of schoolchildren called "Ideas" into the best, most cohesive and entertaining idea they can be. That's not magic, that's construction. Build the house that Jill wrote.
A schedule means that house won't see a flurry of activity for a day followed by two weeks of unexplained absence. Anybody waiting for you to build their home would fire you under that model. There will be work stoppages, no doubt, but not because of "Don't Wanna."
No, this is not "forcing" yourself to write. Generally you force somebody to do something they are intrinsically set against. We're going to assume you like to write. Me, there are times when I don't seek out photos of Rosario Dawson but if somebody slides one my way I do not have to force myself to look. This isn't even so much about discipline; you know what you need to do and you know when to do it. It's more about honesty. Do you really want to write (and all that it entails) or do you want the glory of saying you've written?
The latter is of the "A Gold Star & Trophy in Every Pot" camp. The latter does not want to push the re-do button on every chapter so instead it throws excuses your way like a rain of stabby shuriken. They lodge in your brain. Your ideas and enthusiasm seep out, not in the good way. Mental sepsis, aka writer's block, sets in. Writing becomes impractical, detrimental even. No possibility of adhering to a schedule. That or it's (the brain) waiting on the muse. I'm all for diaphanous gowns on artsy ladies whose bosoms smell like lavender poppies. I am. I also know the dream of lavender boobs is just that: a dream. There is no muse, there is only you. If you feel the need to suit up in order to get words flowing, a diaphanous gown would be fierce on you.
So here's the thing about writing: you're either going to give yourself an out for why you're not doing it or you're going to do it. That's it. Your schedule doesn't have to be every day. It can be every other day or however. But if it's ten minutes once a week, don't bother. You have too much weight on the flipside to tip a book out.
And if you're worried that scheduled writing means you won't knock out Toni Morrison-level prose each time at bat: Please. Return to the paragraph on not wanting to edit then return here for the coda on your writing career, which is basically The End.
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY