Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On writing

I did something yesterday that I haven't done in a long time. I tried writing some fiction. It was a struggling, stumbling effort and most of what made it to the page was crap, but damn, it felt good. I've always had trouble defining myself as a writer. I am a writer because I can't truly live without writing. Part of me shrivels up and dies when I don't regularly put words together to express some idea. Conversely, I feel the pieces of myself settle into just the right formation when I'm truly into the work and flow of writing. The only other place in my life that happens is in prayer.

However, just what kind of writer I am escapes me. Though decidedly unprolific, I think of myself as a poet first. I think that my poetry is my best work. I've thought about setting up a separate blog to keep my poetry together or putting links to my poems in the sidebar, but there's so damn little of it that's truly worth sharing. What drew me to writing in the first place, that undeniable call that came early in childhood, was story telling, what I recognize now was plot development. Yet most of my fiction sits unfinished, due to lack of discipline. I seem to reach a point where a story just fades, and the demands of daily (confession: I nearly said real) life make it so easy to let it drop, instead of wrapping it up. Another confession, after hand writing over two hundred pages of a novel that I thought held some real potential and then @#$% losing it hit me harder than I could really admit. That seemed to affirm every negative in the ongoing battle for self-esteem and the value of my writing.

I think I'm a decent essayist. Last night's insomnia drove me to reading old blog entries, and I realize that I do like my writing style, even though when I'm actually doing the writing, it strikes me as overly formal, even a bit pretentious. My writings on spirituality and sometimes my rants are sometimes really quite decent. However what got me was the beginning of a short story, whose idea was inspired by Paula. Why didn't I ever finish that? Why don't I go back to it now?

So, just what the fuck is holding me back from diving deeper into my writing? Well, of course there are the demands of supporting and caring for a family. There is a selfishness that comes with the creation of any form of art. That was actually difficult for me to write. It's a confession that what I do counts as art. Giving myself that credit means I have to treat my writing with respect. It takes time that won't be given to anything else, and I want to be a good person more than I want to be a good writer. I know in my gut that it's possible to be both, but I haven't learned how to pull that off yet. I know that I've sacrificed too much of myself over the years to jobs that just drained me and to a family who's relied on me too much because I trained them how to do just that. I'm left wondering if I have to straighten out my life before I can straighten out my writing, but I realize that the process of living well won't be completed until I die. For me to live well means that I have to write, so this is something I simply must figure out.

It's time for me to concentrate more writing energy on things besides blog entries. Theresa was right. I've neglected that side of my life for too long. One of my fears though is that I won't be able to take myself seriously as a writer unless I have people reading what I write, and blogging is definitely the easiest way to achieve that goal. I know that the easy path is usually the wrong one for me, but I've needed something in my life to be easy over the last few years.

I've always loved the callouses in my fingers that form the groove around my pen. Even when I was younger and vain about the softness and unusual but distinct femininity of my large hands, those bumps were an affirmation of my identity. It's time to take pen in hand again for something other than off line journaling. I need to stretch the muscles of my imagination, and like any form of exercise, that's a bit daunting at first.

I know that I'll need discipline. I know that I need to establish some daily writing routine, instead of fitting it into whatever else the day holds. I know that I need to respect this need regardless of where it leads. I pray that I'll be able to do it. This is surrender. I've been fighting for both being able to write and not having writing take away from my life. Yet, my recent privacy has let me realize that I need to add good, beneficial, strength creating activities to my life. I have those gut butterflies that always mean both excitement and fear.

Let me do it this time. Let me really do it. This is the call of my soul.


Blogger Shelina said...

I agree. You are a good writer. You should write. Go write.

September 13, 2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I think that we can sometimes get TOO caught up in the idea of discipline. It can be as much of a procrastination tactic as anything. If we decide we WILL NOT write until the conditions are right, then often, we end up not writing.

I suck at self-discipline...should probably exercise more of it. But anything I decide I need to discipline myself about more often than not falls by the wayside. And I cannot let that happen to my writing. So I write what I can when I can. It's not the best, but it's infinitely better than not.

And as far as "taking a pen in hand," those days ended for me a long time ago. My hands are so swollen and sore from the cafe that I'm lucky I can still pound a keyboard... :-]

September 13, 2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

I'm so glad to see this entry from you. I like what Lisa says about the word "discipline." On one hand we can recognize that writing takes discipline; on the other, for some of us at least, the word conjures up obligation, and some of us get so caught up in obligations that we're sick of it. Let's not put writing in the same category. It's not an obligation, it's a necessity. As for losing your 200 pages, I know it's a hard blow, but it might also be a blessing. You can start fresh and not be confined to what you wrote before. Sometimes those dusty manuscripts can be more of a hinderance than a help. Take it from somebody who's been there. I think my biggest obstacle was giving myself permission to write and not letting the everlasting no's in my life drown my desire, my need. I still fight this, Cynthia. It is a new fight every day. Writing and sending out manuscripts doesn't have the immediate gratification of blogging, but there are other advantages. The waiting and the anticipation create a kind of tension within that is kind of painful but kind of necessary. It forces you to confront a lot of things long term. You can't just push a button, archive it, and go on to the next. The writing becomes ongoing. I have recognized your talent for a long time and have been waiting for you to get serious about it. I'll help any way I can.

September 13, 2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

You ARE a wonderful writer, Cynthia. I hope you are listening to yourself.

September 13, 2006 10:19 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

A great deal of what you said hit home with me. You aren't alone in your feelings.

September 14, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Nelle said...

I love to read every entry that you write and I think you have a gift for conveying your thoughts. I wish you well on this new chapter in your book of yourself.

September 14, 2006 8:01 PM  

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