It's been rough, the last couple weeks. Writing on the new book isn't going so well. There is floundering. There is uncertainty. There are writing sessions that consist of me writing "This is crap this is crap this is crap" repeatedly. There is also the completed novel, the one making its rounds in the please-want-my-book-osphere. I put so much into that book--years and years and tremendous devotion and energy and grueling work. I know what it takes to bring a book to fruition, and I look at my notebook of "this is crap" writing and wonder whether I have that much in me for another round. It seems ludicrous to start all over again, absent any evidence that any of this, ever, is going to pay off in any sort of tangible way.
But this morning I got up and I took my green smoothie to my backyard bistro table and I meditated and I wrote. Just a tiny bit. And then I got up and looked at the scene in front of me:
1 - New novel notebook (the big one).
2 - Writing prompts notebook (spiral).
3 - Spiritual (for lack of a better word) growth notebook, notes on challenges and inspirations toward the person I want to be.
4 - My husband's Complete Works of Shakespeare, through which I'm currently immersing myself in The Tempest because my character is playing Miranda. (Twelve years with an actor have finally caught up with me.)
5 - Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, a novel that's providing some structural inspiration.
6 - Dani Shapiro's Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. (Looking for help.)
And I thought, we're stuck with each other, writing and I. I don't know any other way to live. These books and these notebooks and these pens...how else could I possibly be? For better or worse, it's who I am.
The Creativity Rising Facebook event page is an interesting place right now. I came across this quotation today and posted it:
"Things are not difficult to make. What is difficult is putting ourselves in the state of mine to make them."
- Constantin Brancusi
My friend and colleague, editor Franklin Carter, responded with this:
Steven Pressfield writes: "Our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace, or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.
"A professional distances herself from her instrument. The pro stands at one remove from her instrument – meaning her person, her body, her voice, her talent: the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological being she uses in her work. She does not identify with this instrument. It is simply what God gave her, what she has to work with. She assesses it coolly, impersonally, objectively.
"Does Madonna walk around the house in cone bras and come-fuck-me bustiers? She’s too busy planning D-Day. Madonna does not identify with 'Madonna.' Madonna employs 'Madonna.'"
My sister Leah pointed me to this intriguing RadioLab episode, called Me, Myself, and Muse, in which various creatives grapple with how to put themselves in the path of creativity. Including Elizabeth Gilbert, who wants to find a way to "live a creative life without cutting your ear off."
And I loved these thoughts from my friend and writing buddy Sarah Henstra on How to Write Without Writing, which are so in line with everything I've been thinking as I prepare for our Creativity Rising workshop tomorrow. She writes:
"[It] sounds simple, right?: get out of your own way, avoid perfectionism, give yourself permission to be messy and proceed with half-measures. But I need to hear it again and again–I need even to find my own, silly trick for enacting it–because for me, starting is always the scariest part of writing. The self-discipline it takes is an utter paradox to me, in that getting to work means giving up control."
Tomorrow we're going to see if we can't put ourselves in the state of mind to make some things.