Recently a friend said to me, “You were just talking about how writing is what matters most to you and now you have another book coming out! How lucky!” Um. But it’s not luck. But also…it’s not just Hard. Work. either. I mean, of course it’s hard work, it just is automatic in a lot of ways. It never really occurs to me to stop writing and reading and connecting things–to stop trying to make sense of stuff. Despite all the other things I could (should) be doing, despite all of the ways I’m told that my voice isn’t enough, or wrong, or that I don’t have the right to say this or that, it never occurs to me to stop. Those tear downs might be a bit of a mind-fuck I have to shake off, but they never silence me entirely. I apply to workshops and try to study with people I admire and I guard my writing time even when there’s other stuff I’d rather do. I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for my drive to write, wherever it comes from, and my commitment to figuring out what conditions the writing needs, and then having the discipline to create those conditions to give myself a fair shot at writing something I’m proud of. For recognizing the writing itself as a delicate, skittish animal I love and hope will nest here, in the soft tissue between my ears.
But it’s not quite me. I’m a selfish lazy imperfect person. I like praise and I like compliments and I like to be rescued (theoretically). Yet something within me is pulled towards this work no one else can do for me, that has more rejection than praise built into it. This hard stuff.
My friend and colleague Joy Jacobson mentioned she was being blown away by Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, a book that’s been on my list but I hadn’t quite gotten around to (there are so many books on my list). I ordered it immediately. Holy Shit. I’ve just been gasping/crying/rereading/thinking thinking thinking since I started reading it.
Our opening line this week is from Whereas: “When I want to write seriously, I…”
What are the conditions and rituals you create around your writing or art making? Mine change. Lately I’ve been sitting on one end of the couch with my dictionary beside me, wearing a particular comfortable grey on grey torn up sweatshirt very old pants combo, which I call my “home suit.” I feel better than beautiful; I feel invisible and body-less a cloud of ideas. And I am prepared to spring up and stand on my head should the moment require it (which it does with surprising frequency).
Also, I’ve been dancing to this happy song whenever necessary (or at all possible). The damn thing makes me so happy you guys. I was hoping there was an awesome video but I couldn’t find one. So I think I need to get a group of people together to skip around with me and make one. Apply below.