“I hate writing. I love having written.” - Dorothy Parker
I bought this from The Rumpus.
I can’t tell if this is too “inside baseball” because many of my friends are writers. We do what writers do: 1. Talk about writing. 2. Procrastinate. 3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
I AM working on a second book. It has a shape and a focus, but I tend to be “all or nothing” about my projects; if it can’t be perfect, then I don’t want to make the effort. And there are so many important things that need doing. Earlier this summer, I realized I forgot to watch The Wire. So I watched all five seasons in about a month like it was my second job. Then I had to start watching Luther, because Idris Elba.
I put off buying an e-reader forever. I LOVE BOOKS. How could I betray my beloved READING EXPERIENCE with an electronic device? Then I bought a Kindle Fire and it made me feel like I could live without paper forever, even just for the thrill of thinking of a book I once read a million years ago and being able to download it at 1 a.m. and read it. Instant gratification. Writing is not instant gratification. Unless writing a Tweet, which is extraordinarily satisfying. I have written almost 8,000 of them, which in sum total is a book-length work, albeit a boring one.
I still write ideas down in a paper notebook. I also have Evernote on my phone, laptop and tablet. I can’t say that technology has made be more productive (probably the opposite), plus instead of just a notebook full of brilliant ideas mocking me from the depths of my shoulder bag, the mocking comes from multiple sources. I have Tetris on my tablet for some stupid reason. A feed reader of informative blog posts and articles to attend to. I’ve watched 50 episodes of Shin Chan on Hulu in the past three months.
All of this side business (bullshit) means that my notes stagnate, angry, unruly, unattended to: “Hey, um, so…think you’ll get to work on me this weekend? You know, ‘cause you said you were excited about it and all, but here we sit—how long has it been? A month? I know you’ve got all that television to watch and those naps to take and, well, I’m sure that fascinating thing about your ex-boyfriend from a million years ago really needs to get written for your blog. I’m sure all of that takes precedence over, say, the possibility of a review in the Times before you turn 80. Whatever.” My notes are a sarcastic bitch.
It probably doesn’t help that I want my second book to be mine-all-mine, not advice, not for anyone else, my Didion book. And I decided that 45 would be a good age to publish this unwritten masterpiece, which is not right now, but later. Except this one doesn’t want to wait and it isn’t going away. But I push back. I’ve been on central time for three and a half years now and I still can’t get used to prime time television starting at 7 p.m. I have a day job that requires a lot of reading and editing, and it pays the bills, so if I feel like watching four hours of television or staring at the ceiling instead of writing, hey, at least my bills are paid.
Weary of covering my ears and humming every time a new thought surfaces, I set a schedule. I resolved to sit down and use the 5,000 words of notes I have accumulated, turn them into 60,000 words of brilliance, and I will do this for 10 hours a week. Last week, I wrote for one hour (not counting day job related writing or navel-gazing blog writing or Tweets or vaguely insightful Facebook posts). I know it’s bad when things I hate take precedence over my writing schedule: Laundry. Vacuuming, which I do monthly when my dog is at the groomer so she won’t go mental when she sees the Bissell Pet Vac (as in "good for sucking up pet hair," not "good for sucking up pets," but dogs think what they think). Financial paperwork that I don’t care about (someone else can figure out how to roll over my 401(k) into whatever stupid savings thing that won’t cause me to have to pay taxes). Did I already say laundry?
I have coached writers. I know what I am supposed to do when my brain wants to scrub the bathtub and organize the linen closet before I can sit down to write. Those are the thoughts I should ignore. I should sit in front of a blank page and let the words come. I should deactivate my Facebook account. I should stop reading the amazing ideas of others and start writing my own. Physician, heal thyself? I used to think it was weird to see doctors smoking cigarettes or eating fast food, but maybe it’s not weird at all. Maybe it comes down to a choice: Help others or help myself.
So, first step. I will forget the “what ifs.” What if this person gets mad because I wrote a thinly veiled description of a thing that happened a long time ago? What if people judge me? What if I don’t have a second book in me? What if I fail? Then I will find the rational part of me that hates the fact that I am never satisfied with my last great achievement and convince it to hunker down and get to work on a chapter outline.
I’m telling you these things because I need you to know that I am not fragile. You can expect things from me. I won’t flinch, make excuses, or fall apart. This is what we do, my friends. This is what we do, having written. Let's all write like motherfuckers.