Writing About Not Writing

Damyanti at a Daily (w)rite wrote a piece about what she is not writing as she is net-less due to service provider issues that sound strangely Canadian for such an exotic locale as Malaysia, and it reminded me of another spring cleaning task that I haven’t tackled yet. My writing. It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have indeed been writing. However my writing has been focused on getting myself up and running at Moms Speak Up where I posted yesterday and have another on tap for Thursday for the Green Moms series we are working on. I know a reporter who used to cover the West Wing who implied that my writing was not exactly the stuff from which good journalism springs, but I don’t aim to be a journalist. I write (therefore I am?) to share what I know, have learned, am learning and am interested in knowing and learning more about from a purely me standpoint. This is what makes me a blogger, a term that is as much a pejorative among writers and commentators on writing as it is part of the definition of who I am as a writer.

I am more than just a links kid when I blog. This is writing though not (always) the agonizing activity it can be when I am working on a fiction piece. I don’t second guess, rewrite, and polish the way I do when I am crafting a story. Stories come from that hard to pin down place in my mind that I access with a sometimes frightening ease and yet can’t really explain how I do it or the grace by which I am blessed with such a treasure. My blog pieces – for they are more than mere posts – channel through my life, reading, writing, and interactions, and as I mention quite often, they have more to do with me than anything else regardless of the impetus.

One thing I have to admit is that I love blogging. If there were a way to turn this into a career, I wouldn’t hesitate because this type of writing and maintaining a daily blog is beyond fun. I don’t really think I could give it up. I do not get the same kind of thrill or feel the awe I do when I read my fiction, but self-publishing is satisfying and I don’t understand the disdain some writers feel for this medium. It is not a red-headed step-child. It’s valid and there are many, many truly great writers in the blogosphere and someday I would like to be counted among them.

My fiction is slow-going. The submit and then sit around with your thumb up your bum waiting for someone to deign to reply yea or nay irritates me. The “rules” prohibit multiple submissions which means while a publisher is free to sit on your work for months, you are not equally free to shop a piece around. Free market capitalism is apparently not a concept in which writers are allowed to participate. Perhaps it would make editors work too hard?

I have several fiction pieces going at a time. Not a good thing, I fear, but I have so many ideas that I would lose so many more if I didn’t do this. I have not learned to budget my time to allow for blogging and fiction writing equally over the course of a week. I am hoping to get a better handle on schedule once my daughter starts going to school all day. Her half days and interruptions that accompany being the mom of a small child still wreak havoc with well-laid plans.

And then there is THE NOVEL. It looms.

The novel has taken me on many twists and turns since I wrote the first four or five chapters of it in the fall of 2006. The subject matter was widowhood or not really. The subject matter was living. Something that is complicated by death and the redirection, or trashing, of hopes and dreams. It was about wants and needs and reconciling. It was about me and being what it was, I needed a bit of distance in order to be able to think and write clearly. The trouble with fictionalizing your own life is that as a writer you create a character who inevitably takes on a life of her own. In some cases even writing her own story, and all of you who have written fiction know what I mean by that. That being the case, it became clear to me at some point that my character was being held back by my superimposing myself onto her story. It had become her story and not mine. And I need to tell my story. Big and gutsy (is “gutsy” code for potentially explosive and messy?). That last bit was advice I got from a writer friend who wondered if I should not be trying to “break out” instead of merely “breaking in” to writing. A thought worth considering.

This is what she would counsel me to do. 10 it.

Ten minutes from now, should I decide to write this memoir (a genre done serious damage in the last while really – think Frey and Oprah), I could easily knock out about 300 words which is all you need to write a day to have a 109, 500 word novel 12 months hence.

Consequently at 300 words a day (low for me really as I easily write anywhere from a 1000 to 1500 or more at a sitting), in ten months I could be looking at an almost completed memoir.

And in ten years? To paraphrase my husband, looking that far ahead is nothing more than wishful thinking because life is such a crapshoot. In May of 1999 I was planning an August wedding for a marriage that has been over now for some time, whereas just a year earlier I had been seriously considering giving up on the idea (marriage/coupledom) altogether and just living life for me, taking the rest as it came or didn’t.

There is something to be said for planning ahead/having goals and something to be said for being realistic and adaptable as well. But ten years from now? I could be a well-established writer with other titles to my credit and able to balance my creative needs and desires with the commercial reality of making a living. It’s not a crazy pipe dream at all for me. I am a good writer and a goal like this is not outside the realm of my talent or ambition.

What, however, if in the next ten minutes, I did nothing about the memoir idea? I wouldn’t be any further behind but I wouldn’t be ahead either. I would still have this blog and the contributing gig at Moms Speak Up. There are still the short stories I am working on, but THE NOVEL, the memoir, would still loom. Inaction hasn’t made it go away so far and that isn’t going to change.

Ten months into the future, I could have/will have stories published and have furthered my goals with this blog. THE NOVEL will still loom.

A decade will pass which may or may not see any great novels from me though I am certain I will achieve at least modest success with my writing. I will always wonder though what I could have done if I had broken out instead of in though, and there is the crux of the matter. Just do it. Succeed or fail but know for certain or wonder “what if”?

3 thoughts on “Writing About Not Writing

  1. This is heartening. While I wander seemingly randomly, I WANT to be going somewhere with my writing. I’m just not sure where. But this thought of the purposeful tiny step fills me with hope that, with patience, I’ll find my way and my writing voice. Thanks for a thoughtful piece…

  2. Thing about memoirs are that they are never really about you or whoever the subject is. They are cover a whole lot of ground and people who have their own take on things. You would think that as a blogger I wouldn’t hesitate to “tell all” but it still gives me pause.

    The community on the blogosphere is the main perk of writing. For the most part people are wonderful and sharing and strangely revealing in a way that never happens face to face.

  3. this strikes resonance with me… although i am not a writer, my reason for blogging was to write a memoir. not mine, but my fathers. to do this, i need to paint the environment, the circumstances… that’s The Park. The rest of the fluff? Just therapy. The biggest surprise for me has been the sense of community i’ve enjoyed… wonderful!

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