Hello everyone, and welcome to my writer’s journal!
This is a first for me, as I’ve never kept a journal of my writing process before; it’s so difficult on some days to do the writing itself, I’m usually too tired by the end of the day to write about it, and crave the soothing passivity of watching reality tv and eating bad carbs. But I’ll keep this one light and fun—I hope for you as well as me—and perhaps it will be helpful as well. As Ralph Keyes titles his wonderful book (highly recommended!) it takes courage to write. And when would-be or beginning writers see only the finished products of experienced writers, looking polished and professional, all spiffed up with praising blurbs and enticing covers, they can easily get discouraged, feeling that they could never make it into to that exalted world themselves. I hope that getting a peek at the not-so-glamorous reality of the daily life of this writer will help close that gap. And, since I do teach writing, I will also have some practical tips on how to get the motor running, conquer your fears, and tolerate the inevitable struggle.
Today, for example, I couldn’t write. I’m very near the completion of my book, I know exactly what I want to say in the last sections, and you’d think this, of all times, would be a piece of cake for me. NOT. Maybe I’m a bit burnt out, maybe I don’t want to let my baby out of my womb (it’s so warm and safe in there, and such good company!), maybe I’m just feeling lazy, or maybe—here’s something I bet you’ve never thought of—I’m actually too excited by the ideas, and am strangely afraid of turning the switch on. Whatever the reason, I just can’t get myself back to that spot in my chapter where I left off. I thought today was going to be a major writing day. I have arranged my schedule so I have no meetings or appointments, my husband has taken our daughter to her riding lesson. I got a pretty good night’s sleep (for me.) The hard copy is sitting there, right next to my computer, my notes are on the desk to my right, the file is open on my desktop. I’m perfectly positioned in the ergonomically superb set-up that I spent so much money on. But it just won’t happen.
All writers have days like this. At least, that’s what I tell myself, ignoring the pieces I’ve read about the rigorous schedules of this or that famous writer. If they really work that way, I hate them and don’t want to hear about it! At any rate, I have days like this—many of them, so many you’d probably be shocked—and yet I have managed to write quite a few books. How? I think the key thing that I’ve learned is that writing is an organic process, with a mind of its own, and that “ripeness is all.” Ideas have to germinate, for one thing—and that can involve long periods of what feels like nothing but is actually something very important: becoming ready. Even when one is ready, the process of bringing what is “inside” to the “outside”—the page—is full of stops and starts. If your project matters to you, then what you are doing is bringing forth and exposing parts of yourself—and that’s hard! There are periods of fear, bursts of energy, resistances and break-throughs, excitement and depression—all the things that mark any intimate, important relationship. And, as with any other relationship that matters, one has to be patient with process, forgiving of oneself when you’re “screwing up,” and sometimes, no matter how you “feel,” you just have to force yourself to painfully put one foot in front of the other (or one word after the other) until the flow comes back.
Tonight, I have to forgive myself for today. I had hoped it would be different, but it wasn’t. And I’m betting that today’s forgiveness will result in tomorrow’s productivity. We’ll see. Wish me luck.
Ripeness is all.