Monday, January 4

The Commitment to Write

    Most of us who are passionate about writing find at some point that the desire to write and the words to express ourselves have disassociated themselves. Some people call it 'Writer's Block', others 'a dry spell'.

    I call it 'The Slough' and I immediately set about looking for inspiration to overcome it as soon as it begins to rear its ugly head in my world. I habitually read several blogs on writing tips and it always rejuvenates me when I find other bloggers who write well. There are three problems I've found with using this approach:
    1) I find myself reading and reading, but not writing a word myself.
    2) I write (at least on this, my personal site) in rich and slightly florid prose. A self-affirming response after being forced to write more rigidly elsewhere. Most of the sites I enjoy reading are more journalistic, geeky, which only serves to reify my feelings of literary alienation.
    3) I get great advise from sites on writing, but find that most of them are focused on writers who write in 'niches' with sites dedicated to one subject or one theme, whilst my writing is based on the vagaries of my emotions and my own chaotic experiences.

    I've always assumed that I write geek for my living, but the Muse is only truly with me when I'm writing from my heart. And when I cannot get to the place where I can express myself the Muse will eventually return and free me from my cursed bindings.

    That whole ridiculous idea was shaken when I landed on Joanne Huspek's website.
    For the first time in a long time I was getting useful writing advise that would change my philosophical view of writing. She impressed upon me the idea that writing is work no matter what the subject, and that I must make a real commitment to it. A commitment of time and attention. The saving grace for me is her approach to writing; it makes no difference what I write, as long as I write. That I don't have to look at writing as a packaged product. A 'thing' that must have a beginning and end. And that I don't have to write with the idea of anyone else reading it, I just have to write. I've now realized that the only real defense I have against 'The Slough' is to commit myself to a certain amount of writing time and/or a minimum amount of writing.

    Her advise is simple.
    Five Tips that have changed my perspective on writing.
    Adventures in Writing: Kicking Your Muse to the Curb

    "There is NO such thing as a Muse.
    Getting anything accomplished, including the task of writing, takes blood, sweat, tears and more tears."
    I must confess how vulnerable I felt in finally admitting to myself that what she says is true. There is no Muse who will eventually come to my rescue. Sad. I had wanted only ever to be her amanuensis. I had been so patiently waiting-- and at least I had someone else to blame when 'The Slough' was upon me. Reassured in my conviction that Erato was just being coy.

    "Set up a daily minimum word amount."
    I'm definitely going to put this advise to work. I've the terrible habit of avoiding writing until I feel that I have something of substance, and quantity, to write. She has inspired me with the idea of a daily writing minimum. I used to carry a mini-journal of sorts, jotting down random thoughts and observations that usually opened my mind's creative eyes and also gave me material to fall back on when I was feeling blocked. When I stopped lugging it everywhere I don't recall. I would imagine it had to do with not having room and time for it at work. I dug it out of my old briefcase on New Years Eve as I made my commitment and resolution to write every day. I must admit to being overcome with panic when I realized that it was no longer in my book bag. I had poured my thoughts, and my heart, into that purple-striped, elastic bound journal. I had stuffed its pockets full of scribbled notes and photos during my travels to New York, Las Vegas, Paradise Island, not to mention the hastily jotted fragments that screamed in my head for release at red lights and whilst standing in line at the grocery store.

    And the time commitment?
    "Set up a daily time for writing."
    Needless to say this is the most difficult part for me as a woman. More and more over the years I've allowed my own desires to be usurped by feelings of guilt. Guilt that I'm being selfish. Guilt that I'm being negligent in some way if I put my writing ahead of the priorities of other people. Resentments that build on all sides when I refuse to be at the beck and call of my career, and all the while I feel my internal clock ticking a mournful countdown on the woman that I had thought I would be. All of the goals that I've put off thinking that I had so much time. I had broken my vow to myself. My own desire, a jilted lover left at the altar. 'I want you, I do. So much. But not right now, just sit quietly and wait for me. Don't change. I won't be long.'

    But I had been long. And I returned changed. My passion had become inconvenience, I had acquiesced to the label that others had forced upon it.

    I have decided on a time, either very late or very early depending on your geographical perspective. I will not let work interfere. If the words are there, the journal comes out. But I must learn to sit myself down with the intention of writing, no matter whether the words are in the mood to be had-- I have to put pen to paper. This is about training and self-discipline. Changing my habit of waiting until I have something 'worthy' to write.

    In a moment of Epiphany I realized that I've treated my desire to write and my commitment to writing as two separate issues, when they should have been one all along. The commitment to write should be the fulfillment of desire, not a burden to be overcome. I don't know when this changed for me, when the passionate writer that I once was became so hard on herself. When my self-criticism became so severe that I found myself unable to enjoy writing just for the sake of doing it.

    I could blame it on writing geek. A very specific format. Rigid. I feel like it locks me into a particular way of writing and it takes time for me to find my own voice again.

    My Commitment to Write
    So the commitment I've made is to write a minimum of two paragraphs every day. It matters not what I write-- or if it is on the web or in the little journal that I have once more secured in my book bag. I just have to write.

    A Place to Write Your Heart
    As I had written in Logos I have many scraps of paper lying about with half finished thoughts. I've decided that this blog should be the place for such fragments, the pieces of myself that I cannot bear to throw away-- although it will no doubt confuse anyone who doesn't understand my purpose. I started another journal elsewhere. It will be used for more formal writing. I cannot link it here, not yet, but I'll explain all of that later... Just know that there will be nothing there that will not be, or is not already, here first. This space will remain the home of my 'private' writing as well as random thoughts and observations. Probably far more interesting in the long run.

    Some posts here will go down and be moved as I weed through and begin the process of dividing myself into two selves.
    In the words of Anais Nin
    "There were always in me, two women at least".
    "The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say."

    I shall attempt to say all that I could not.
    This will be my journey.

    Joanne Huspek is one of my favorite fellow writers on blogcritics.
    She's smart, funny and very prolific.
    You can visit her profile page here.

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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


    Hang with Me on Twitter: @a_geek_girl

    Currently Reading: My Life and Other Lies: Tales from the Writer's List by Steve Pitt. The review will be going up on A Geek Girl at


      Chic Mama said...

      Happy New Year!
      A really interesting and informative post. I'm going to come back when I've got more time- feeding time at the zoo beckons. ;0)

      Blessed Efficacious said...

      Hey, girl, I'm a Capricorn - you're VERY intelligent, too. I find that very VERY. So, why don't we meet in the Great Beyond for a slow dance? Nice and slow, smooth and soft, and let all our organs do the work!! Yeah!! Meet me Upstairs in the Great Beyond for a celebration of our resurrection where we'll have a kick-ass party till well after sundown. God bless.

      Dog Bites Back said...

      "whilst my writing is based on the vagaries of my emotions and my own chaotic experiences"

      Hello... ME. [sobs]

      Does it encourage you to write when others - such as myself - tell you we enjoy reading what you have to say?


      nothingprofound said...

      I haven't hit a dry spell yet, but these are great suggestions if I ever do.

      What Digital Revolution? said...

      I read a biography of former KGB chief Beria once by his own son, and there was a part where he mentioned that Stalin read 500 pages a day. I started trying to read that fast, and I found that my entire comprehension was altered. It was like leaving the trees for the forest--neither better nor worse, but books that I thought I had read turned out to be something different at 80 pages/hr.

      Similarly, I think that when we force ourselves to write, it's not that we kick the muse to the curb but often it's that we make her anew from a different perspective. I'm trying to adopt the same work ethic you're talking about here, though I fall far short; another inspirational quote: "You're only a writer on the days that you write."

      Thanks for stopping by my blog, and congratulations on your own prolificness! It's a pleasure to read your entries.