Lost & Lucky #1
I was inspired by something Dinty W. Moore (author, editor, teacher) shared at the recent Hippocampus nonfiction writers conference in Lancaster, PA—aptly called HippoCamp. Well, I was inspired by many things at said conference and, even more than inspired, I was uplifted. Which for me, dour curmudgeon that I am, is no small feat.
He told us (this was during a closing panel: "Motivation & the (Post-)Pandemic Writing Life") that he was trying something he'd read another author was doing—baby steps towards writing oneself out of the pandemic/politics/ennui doldrums (my words), more commonly called "writer's block." I wish I had been in my note-taking mode during this session; I don't remember the source of the notion (author or journal where he'd read it, nada). But it was simply this: write for 10 minutes a day ... start there. An iteration of the ages old writing advice: just write; butt in the chair; whatever you want to call it. But you know how, no matter how many times you've heard a bit of advice, at some point it clicks, it feels like a tool you could pick right up and put to good use?
He—meaning Dinty—had been doing this (short daily writing), after some time of not feeling the gumption to write. He also conceded, and I found this particularly reassuring, that he'd long been one of those people who didn't believe in writer's block (no such thing; excuses, excuses; you just do it, and all that), but that the last year-plus had shown him otherwise. He'd been afflicted with writer's block.
I, along with multitudes of writers and creatives, have too. Big time.
I was going to to it. Write 10-15 minutes a day—easy enough. And I did, for a few days after the conference. Then I didn't, and the days when I didn't, stretched, until I wasn't doing it at all.
In the days since, I've done plenty of writing-adjacent tasks. Reviewing submissions, editing other writers' work, piddling around about writerly matters on social media, kvetching about (not) writing with other writers, making interminable lists of work I need to finish/edit/send out.
But all the "adjacent" stuff isn't the same, is it? You can trick yourself that you are "in it" when you aren't really—like swimming with your feet on the ground, or eating without tasting.
I 'm generally goal oriented and I love to write (or, as has been said by someone famous, I love having written). There's that languishing memoir, and a languishing middle grade novel, and scads of languishing essays. I haven't forgotten them or decided they aren't worth the effort. I've simply lost the tail of the thread I'd once held, the path I was on to work my way into and through them. It takes me a certain amount of time and effort just to write myself into the writing space, to arrive at that state of mind where I begin to perceive patterns, connections, purpose, where I feel the tug of the thread in this direction, or that, the branching out of possibilities. If I don't at least try to grasp those threads fairly regularly, the effort begins to feel like such an uphill slog—rather than a journey with its ups, downs, jogs and unplanned side-trips.
So, I've set myself a challenge. I will type words into this blog of mine each day for 30 days, on the topic LOST & LUCKY. I considered other topics, such as GRATITUDE. But that smacked of #blessed, which always makes me cringe. Or, THINGS I'VE DONE/SEEN/EXPERIENCED all these months that I haven't been writing. But that smacked of lists and journalling, which too often devolve into massive procrastination devices and become the end in themselves.
LOST because I feel lost; when I'm not engaged in writing that leads to exploration, discovery, understanding, insight, resolution, confusion, shame, occasional flashes of joy (enough already; I feel a list coming on), I'm treading water, or, more generally, air. I'm lost within my own life, the passage of days feels drifty, shiftless, in a scary way.
LUCKY because geez, I am so clearly that. I could make a list of all the ways I'm lucky, but I'll resist. Suffice to say, I enjoy all the trappings of privilege, including enough down time to realize I feel lost when I'm not writing (which was true in younger years, but while working, raising kids and failing at relationships, it was background static—rather than in my face). That wasn't a very concise "suffice to say," or "long story short," but at least I didn't devolve into list-making.
LOST AND LUCKY #1. Off to a middling blabby start. And here's a photo, cause the page looks bleak, just sort of trailing off like that.
Dorothy, author of GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK, blogs about the challenges and opportunities of being a woman and a writer of a certain age in a youth-centric universe.