Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Writing

While waiting at a doctor's office I started reading a new book - The Call of the Writer's Craft by Tom Bird. What I got out of the first few pages is the same thing my writing coach and group have been telling me. In a nutshell, one must write on a daily basis (300-1o00 words, the number changes depending on who's advising), preferably in the morning. Bird's theory says to write in the a.m. because when you first wake up your left brain is still kind of drowsy and can't get in there to shut down the creative right brain with criticism. I'm not a morning person has been my traditional comeback. Well Mr. Bird, squashes this excuse pretty quickly. He wants his readers/students to get up 2 hours earlier than normal and try it. He uses words like "retrain" and "catharsis" which barely register in either side of my brain before daylight.

But, for the 3rd day in a row, here I am up. The birds are just beginning to sing their good morning songs. The day is full of promise.

On Day One I started slow but soon hit a feverish pitch. I'm sure what I felt was close to a cocaine high or the manic stage of bipolar disease. My fingers danced across the keyboard. I was creating a program for my writing group's end of the year recital. My creative juice spigot opened up and the words flowed. Some of the words were typed, others shouted and turned the air around me blue with profanity. My only experience in layout design is in Word. I tried using one of my user friendly Mac's templates which just made me crazy. I'm sure it would help to know what I was doing. By 11:00 that night with only a few interruptions I had the format of the program I wanted to make.

On Day Two I finished re-writing the story I may do as my "recital" piece.

On Day Three, my neck hurts and my eyes are only half open. But I sit here, babbling away. It helps to know that down at the beach my writing bud, Amy, has been up for an hour or more writing away. Amy challenged me to write 300 words a day. Since she can only type with one finger and can barely see her computer screen, I think I should at least give it a try. Amy's only a few thousand words short of finishing her memoir about life after a stroke. She gets up at 4:30 every morning because she's committed to her writing. I think that's where I fall short. Commitment.

I would love to write a memoir, even if I have to "creatively" exaggerate some of the duller parts of my life. My problem is after the beginning mania fades I'm left with tired fingers and a brain turned to mush. Mr. Bird says if I follow his method I can write a book in 30 days. It sounds like those Ginsu knife commercials where one simple kitchen implement can do everything from slice tomatoes to chop down a small tree - too good to be true. But maybe that's just my awakening left brain trying to throw me off track.

Here's the thing. When I do write something and turn it in to the group for critique, I feel like the 6th grade girl whose teacher made a big fuss over every story she wrote. Or the 8th grade girl whose English teacher made a bet with another teacher that she had a student (me) who could properly diagram a really complicated sentence on the final exam. She won the bet and I soaked up the kudos like a sea sponge. It's like when Suzi Q begrudgingly lies all the way down on the floor for a Milk Bone. It's more work, but I want the reward. I want to learn how to write better and better and that isn't going to happen unless I do exercises.

So here I am, pumping up my writing muscles. Can you hear the Rocky theme in the background?

Wishing for you a part of the day to listen to your muse
Merry ME


Molly said...

I have been following Anne LaMott's twitter would think that a published author wouldn't struggle, but she shares her writing struggles and it's refreshing to know that other artists start from scratch every day too.

May the force be with you!

jeanne hewell-chambers said...

there's a site called (i think). for about a year, i wrote there - it's fun cause there's a timer. it clocks your time, charts it. even gives you the mood you were in when you wrote each day. and when you hit 750 words, it lets you know. then i went to 1000 words a day (with a friend), and that worked well, but for reasons neither of us can explain, we stopped. and we got cranky and grumbly and it was hard to get back. we're back now (writing 1k words/day, though not always posted on our blogs), and we like to change it up, writing with prompts sometimes and randomly sometimes, etc. the main thing is: keep writing. and as for turning it in for critique? bah. (i took one of tom bird's classes at emory eons ago. didn't like him much in person, but he's right: stick to it and you can write a book in 30 days.) you know about nanowrimo?