It may be a bit redundant to write anything past the image above, but I’m going to anyway because I told Jaye Wells that she could openly mock me on her site if I didn’t post today.*
I’ve felt like the gal from the above image lately. Writing has seemed a bit more painful than it ought to and I think it comes from being pulled in a number of ways by different projects. In short, I spread myself too thin and everything suffered as a result. A teacher once told me of his pursuit for both a career in writing and his calling to the priesthood. As he finished a course in theology his professor, a man who knew of both his interests, gave him a gift of a rare text and wished my teacher well on “both his pursuits.” My teacher, touched by both the gift and the fact that this venerable man knew of his dual interests, thanked his professor who said, after a pause, “You know, you can only have one.” My teacher smiled sadly after telling me this. He had, in fact, left the priesthood in order to focus on writing and to have a family. He obviously felt that his life proved his professor’s warning of not seeking two dreams.
While I have not been pursuing two conflicting goals, I feel like I’ve been living a miniature version of my teacher’s dilemma. I have spread myself rather thin, working on many projects at once, and accomplishing very little in any of them as a result. It’s only in the past couple of days that I feel solid ground beneath my feet. The holidays threw me off, as well. I don’t get much work done (ironically) when I have time off from work. The family tends to gather, food is eaten, and the work falls to the side. This, however, is just proof of what I’ve come to realize so strongly: the writing is my responsibility and I have to do it for me or I lose my freaking mind.
I have not been me lately. I’ve been some weird depressed/depressing guy who pretends everything is fine and who isn’t convincing anyone that it’s actually the case. I’ve got to get some words down every day to feel normal, and even bad words are better than none. Blogging doesn’t count, by the way. I’ve decided that a once-a-week (or maybe twice-a-week) habit is good enough when it comes to the blogging. These are moments I need to be transcribing one work or creating something new. I have too many things inside bursting to get out and if they’re going to come out I prefer it to be onto the pages instead of through moping and grumbling to my wife.
What I’ve got going on right now is my brand new, 2008, plan of action: write a new project in the morning on my way to the office; in the evening I will type up my older projects which are languishing in my journal, land of the handwritten text. Thank god for my new laptop. I have one-and-a-half novels to type out, and a couple of short stories, and then I can say bye-bye to my cursive scribbles. And my new mantra: baby-steps. It’s actually an old mantra of mine, but I forgot it for a while and I just rediscovered it. It’s not about the conclusion, it’s about learning to walk, every day, by simply doing today’s work. Baby-steps, one at a time, moving forward. I’ve put away a lot of side-projects and am focusing on two. Two I can handle.
And there are two books that are helpful in this regard. Both are excellent, and both work well together. Sort of a right-brain left-brain set for the blocked writer:
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo
Both are simple, direct and motivating. Both require you to do the work, they offer nothing in the way of formula or “secret tips to make your fiction POP!” Both are effective techniques because both say “Shut up and write.” What makes them great companions is their differences. The former is the muscle through and do it tough papa, the latter is the find your feelings on your place in the world mama. I’ll be rereading them both over the next few days.
*Note: Interesting fun fact: I have now logged twice as many posts this month as I did all of last month! That’s right, January: 2, December: 1! Go January!