Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pick Yourself Up and Start Again

This essay (article, post, whatever you may call it) is going to be about writer's hope, direction, perhaps even the implementation of  some self-discipline. It's about embarking on a new project -- or more precisely, embarking on the finishing of a project, the project itself isn't exactly new just the stirring desire to finish -- with positive, patient persistence. (For hopefulness about writing, read on...)

How I'm going to convey that feeling isn't something I've planned out. Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that I've not much planned my project -- all I have is a feeling to spur me on. But I try to think of these posts as short essays (blog posts are always better when they draw some sort of conclusion that echos the opening, no?), and as I try to implore my writing students, essays are nothing more lofty than an attempt to communicate your personal thinking on some subject, the term "essay" coming from the French essayer (v), to try. Or essai (n) a try.

An essay is an attempt at expression. It may meander, it may be cut and edited, but it shouldn't be overly rigid in construction and planning, otherwise how can you make great discoveries of self and thought while you essay? Save your structure and fact and organization for editing, well after you've essayed your way to some truths.

And so I am trying.

At this precise moment, I'm trying to stay positive, not sick to my stomach as I watch the pest control guy spray just part of the nearby apartment building. Just part? I understand how that's cost effective, but not how that's get-rid-of-the-pest effective. Ug. Another great reason to keep cats: they find the pests before you do and, usually, eat it before you're the wiser.

But the man with a can of pressurized chemical spray isn't the only thing which should be dragging on my sense of direction and hope, yet isn't. For starters, the Attack of the Back has devastated my past week.

The non-compliance of my body to respond to my commands in a useful manner meant that on this past Saturday it took me twenty minutes to go from reclining to standing, unassisted. And then once I was standing it was less than twenty minutes before Attack of the Back protested so loudly that I was forced back into the previous, reclined posture. I am currently on the mend. Mend-ish. I may actually have to give in and go see a chiropractor. You know, get over that aversion/advice I was previously given that once you start going to a chiropractor you can't ever stop. Because hey, isn't that also true for dentists? And because hey, these Attacks of the Back are painful and they don't look like they're ever gonna stop coming to visit me either.

So I'm upright again. Sorta. I had big 2013 dreams of punching out a lot of words starting on January 1 and not stopping until ... okay, just not stopping. But the reality is that the punching out hasn't started. Half-way through the month and I'm still working to get my feet under me (figuratively) from the whirlwind end of 2012 and (literally) from the Attack of the Back. Newyness aside, there's no reason that my self-discipline and goals have to be pegged to calendar start and end points. So sally forth! I say. And tallyho! Cowabunga! And other similar cries which indicate a rush of activity!

No, no, that's not what I want.

If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I am prone to manic writing. Followed by furloughs of no writing. Some of which is deadline driven -- oh baby, there ain't nothing like the sound of a deadline whooshing past to get me on task! -- but some of it is an intensity issue. Frenzied activity in general is easy  to get on board with. It's Day One of the exercise routine/diet where you're super good, followed by week two when you can't even remember that you're on a routine/diet because you just can't take the super good intensity anymore. You're like, dude, chill out with this craziness and get me a cupcake. I need moderation and discipline. Not a celery stick and ice cream pendulum. Not the frenzy that follows the cry of tallyho, but the deliberate fox-stalking which precedes it.

Instead, a gentle push to get me started:

Today I received a lovely, personal letter from a magazine which I respect telling me that my story was well written and interesting, and then telling me all the reasons why it wasn't going to be published by them. What a great big happy-sad feeling that produces. I adore the fact that they took the time to talk to me about the story. I'm pleased with their compliments. But I'm sad to have failed in the endeavor of getting them to publish the story.

"Bittersweet" doesn't really begin to describe the conflicting emotions this particular letter invokes. "Bittersweet" describes previous such letters I've received -- letters which I usually don't blog about because I don't usually feel the desire to make such things public. This time I'm far too happy and far too sad, simultaneously, to reconcile the two into any nameable emotion.

It is however a spur. A gentle push to get me started. Along with all the things the letter said, I take away this: they're eager to see what I send them next. So on to the next. A brilliant nudge to get me to complete edits on a short story I've let languish for eighteen months. And get it done now. Using the short goal to achieve a sense of action and purpose, to garner momentum, enough to pick myself up and start again.


Note: I couldn't find a way to work it into the above essay, though I did try, but I wanted to point out another lovely post on writer's hope, direction, and discipline that I read today. Rebecca Enzor's "Give Them a Chance to Say Yes" inspired by a beautiful tweet by Amalia Dillin. Her direction is more focused on submissions than creation, but still terribly hopeful. Autumn MacArthur's blog is also great for these sort of inner-looking hopeful-writer-rants which I love.
Top photo credit: "by Stik" By Feral78 via Flickr.

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