So I went to this wonderful writing class, and got all this love and encouragement to write. Now I wake up and feel guilty that I am not writing. Like, in my sleep, I guess. I’m not “working,” so I should be writing between eighteen and twenty-two hours a day, right? I go have lunch with my grandma, and I am wondering when I can leave and start writing. How many thousands of words can I crank out today? How many days will it take to get to 80,000 if I keep up at my present pace? When I get to the magic number, won’t I be so happy? Won’t all my problems be solved when it’s long enough? Angels will sing! How quickly the sweet voice of eagerness morphs into the nightstick of self-flagellation. How easily I slip into treating myself like a machine. I’m kinder to the machines in my life, actually.
The fact is, I’ve written thousands and thousands of words this week, pages and pages. Mozart would have written a whole opera, and Dickens would have finished a whole book and put out an issue of his magazine. But, you know, fuck them. I’d rather have antibiotics and novocaine.
At our class, as our teacher asked us questions to make us think through our process, I realized how much I knew. I know how to manage my creative life. I have all kinds of tricks. I know how to cajole myself into working, how to feed myself enough good art (Milan Kundera), and enough trash art (“America’s Next Top Model”). I know that a week or so of listlessness is normal. I know that there is no such thing as writer’s block– there is only the reluctance to write a whole lot of whiny, shapeless junk. (Whinier than this, and much more shapeless!)
The reason it gets especially hard is that I forget why I’m doing it. I’m writing because the story wants telling. I feel called to tell the story. I’m the right person in the right time. Because too many stories in education are about overnight success, passion instead of endurance, and martyrdom instead of mutual benefit and community. But boy, it’s hard to remember that. It’s hard to turn your attention to the carrot when your brain is so attracted to the stick.