‘Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.’ -Chuck Close
Halfway through last year I started work on my second book. The first book was out of my hands while it was being edited, laid out and designed.
I had some notion of what I wanted the second book to be all about. Books begin with opening a new document on a word-processing package, so I opened one, gave it a working title and got started.
I have written about a third of it. It is not going where I want it to go. It is not the book I had in my head when I opened that new document. This is a common experience.
‘A poem that doesn’t get out of hand isn’t a poem.’ -John Hollander
The writing has been lurching off into strange side-alleys and cul-de-sacs – uncomfortable places.
I don’t want to write the book that the book wants to become.
Last week I hit a bit of a wall with it and thought I should give up writing. The writing life is hard, harder than you might think if you are outside looking in. I feel vulnerable and tired. I get sick of getting rejection letters 70% of the time, of missing out on funding. Keeping writing going in my life is a fight. Fighting takes a lot of energy.
The new book is telling me this: Drag it out into the light. That is this book’s imperative.
This post sounds a bit mental – like I’m hearing voices. What can I say? This is how I experience my writing self, my writing life.
I feel like I’m fighting with myself. It is a violent fight. People are getting hurt.
‘True friends stab you in the front.’ -Oscar Wilde
I also feel like ‘this country isn’t big enough for the both of us.’ (‘Us’ being daily me versus my writing self.) I know how mental that sounds.
Everything I write lately is tangential, difficult and odd.
‘There are words that don’t talk to brains. Instead they thump into chests, bashing and shrieking like poltergeists.’ -Kristin Hersh
This is the most self-indulgent post ever. Except for when I don’t hate writing about writing, like if it is by Anne Lamott or Ann Patchett or Jay Griffiths or D.A.Powell, I hate writing about writing.
I hate this post.
‘Sentimentality – that’s what we call the sentiment we don’t share.’ -Graham Greene
A friend told me to ‘stop second-guessing yourself.’ Whenever anyone tells me to stop doing anything it makes me do it more. The elephant is in the room. The emperor is naked.
It is good advice.
I feel extremely confused about who I am as a writer right now.
‘Find out who you are and do it on purpose.’ -Dolly Parton
My friend Pip once interviewed David Vann and he told her that tragedy is when a protagonist is forced to make a choice and whichever way he chooses, he loses half of himself.
I love imperatives and maxims and bold assertions because I feel so unsure of anything lately. Experiencing life as all nuance, all complexity, all ambivalence, all sensate and half-truth and murmur and roar and silence and spiritual nihilism and nothing that ends with an ‘ism’ makes certainty so attractive.
I’m so hot for other people’s certainty.
‘Poetry springs from something deeper, it is beyond intelligence. It may not even be linked with wisdom.’ -Jorge Luis Borges
I met with my my incredible writing group yesterday. They are incredible. They are the best writing group ever. There is no writing group in the world that is better than my writing group. I left feeling like utter crap. It wasn’t them. It was me and my fight with writing.
‘You are free, but you have to choose. An open oven bakes no bread.’ -Paulo Coelho
I am going to keep writing. I feel as weak as a new-born kitten as I type that.
I get more courage from THESE PEOPLE than from anyone who ever taught me writing.
‘Writing 101: moral courage is seldom the subject, but it is often the prerequisite.’ -D.A.Powell