19 January 2010


I don't write about my writing here much,
but today I just wanted to touch on it-- I've been stuck. STUCK, stucky stuck. Stuckola. Stuckorama. Stuckstuckshittystuck.
Why? Because I have been trying to make something GOOD. Trying usually is a killer for me, trying to make something good is a double whammy. My writing happens best when it spills.

I have been reading and gathering little pieces of this and that as I move toward my futureKate-- little pieces like the concept of allowing myself to suck at something, make a mess, not make it all pretty all the time, I have been thinking about what it means to create, and what it means not to. When the creativity feels thwarted or it is a time of resting and gathering rather than producing. I am gathering information like a crow I think, bringing pieces and parts back to my nest, not sure what to make of it all. Dreams and thoughts and wonderings, trying to be driven more by what feels good than an aversion to what feels bad. Craving a pull not a push.

I have blogs I adore that support me although they may never know, my dearest Karen, Brene Brown, Jen Lee, Jen Gray, Maya Stein, and a new one I found today via Jen Lee's blog-- warrior girl that I will link here so I do not lose. (She has a beautiful recent post about imperfection which felt JUST RIGHT).

I am reading by random pages a book by Julia Cameron (Walking in the world), and find myself in there sometimes in an almost laughable way like I've been found out, and other times, not at all, like I am a stranger peeking in. She writes a lot about the artist's life-- the life of an artist where Artist has a broad and wonderfully inclusive definition. (Beware IFers, she uses MANY pregnancy/conception/birthing/child metaphors for art and it is pervasive and startling so this is not a book I am suggesting/recommending.)

Anyway, so I've been stuck with my writing project, a novella that I have loved during the writing and labored horribly and unhappily over during the editing process. Since it is made of pieces written over a long time, I've been trying to gather it together, started to worry about what it would take to make it good.
Thanks to a random reading in Julia's book, I realized I was trying to make it good for other people. And by doing so, I was losing what I loved about it. And I was losing my connection to it. It was starting (ok, more than starting) to feel like work, not love.

And then, a few days back, another random read brought me this:

Just begin.

Oh, I said. Just begin. That does not sound so scary. Beginning is not the same thing as CREATING A MASTERPIECE.

And so, crazy as it sounds, I did. And not only have I had the most productive days working on the project in months and months and months, but I am happy doing it, I am happy about it, and it feels really really good. As if I have taken possession of it again. I am not editing it to make it good for out there (hands waving), but for making it good in here.

So today-- I realized in the shower that much of what I worry about is finishing/making something good. I worry so much, in fact, that it slobs all the way back to muck up even the possibility at the start of something, that place where we pick up the pen or shoes or instrument. I am so worried about finishing, that I don't even begin.

Well. Not today, baby. Today? Screw finishing. Today, I BEGIN.


sprogblogger said...

Wonderful post! Excellent reminder. Enjoy your new beginning, (and someday, I would love to read your off-blog writing....)

K said...

Lovely! I can definitely relate to this and your timing is amazing since today is supposed to be my day to write write write but like you there are so manyc ritics vying for space I often stop before I even begin. Good luck on your novella!

IVF 40+ said...

cool post! I am with you all the way.

musicmakermomma said...

Great post - the journey begins with a single step, and all that...

So glad you took the first step, this is a great reminder to me as well. No matter how impossibly huge the task seems, I can only start where I am. SO! Thanks for the inspiration.

karen alonge said...

high five me, baby! LOVED reading this. :)

karen alonge said...

oh hey, can I say one more thing?

I find that when I write, I can't really even access what GOOD is for anyone else - everyone is so different and how could I possibly know what they might like?

what I CAN access is that feeling of satisfaction when I read back over it, and it seems to say exactly what I wanted to express.

if someone else happens to like it too, that's fantastic. but I'm always kind of surprised when that happens!

B. said...

Yes! You're far from alone in allowing "finish" to interfere with "begin." Thank you for the reminder.

alyssa ettinger said...

kater, what do you tell me when i don't have any motivation to go to my studio and i feel useless and think i'll never make another thing again? you tell me to take an afternoon to do something i love--finding cashmere at the salvation army--then go to my studio the next day and just WORK. it make date a few days, but it works.

i love you.
alyssa, your friend who pimps herself out on your website.

babyinterrupted said...

Great post. And a good reminder for me, beginning this cycle. Just begin. Don't worry about the damn ending so much. (I will work on this.) :)

IF Optimist, then... said...

Truly inspiring. So glad you are working and happy. Thank you for this.

just me, dawn said...

I LOVE it!! thank you

Kate said...

Now I know why I love your blog posts so much - you're a writer! I'm sure I knew that before, but it didn't sink in.
Just begin really applies to so many things in life. But I'm so glad it's gotten you back in a good place!

Rebecca said...

My husband is a novelist and I an academic, so I know just what you mean about trying to start a masterpiece when all you really need to be doing is starting. Something. I've noticed lately that one thing that helps me is to put all pencils down, get away from the keyboard/screen, and just read the manuscript whilst curled up in bed with a warm cup of tea and a purring kitty at my feet. Be a reader of my own text. And enjoy it rather than work it. Maybe you, too?

I wanted to comment on your last post, too, about the walk up the hill. I loved it. And it made me want to read your fiction. Your descriptions are so fluid and elegant. The words stroll across the page. And that post about the gray world on the hill brought me some quiet on a day that otherwise wasn't. Thank you.

junebug said...

I have the exact same problem. I have all these fantastic ideas but getting them out is hard. It is something I am really hoping to overcome this year. I have to say that Julia's book The Artist Way is really good for this. I read it years ago and keep meaning to try it again.
Found you via cyclesista.

Michele said...

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...