Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Writing Is Not A Mystery - And Not Like Your Skinny Jeans

No.  Not the hipster "skinny jeans."  (Sorry, I'm feeling anti-hipster at the moment.  It'll pass.)

Those jeans, those jeans, the ones you can't fit into anymore.

Here's a question I ask writer friends, writer clients, people who tell me they want to write:

"So - how's the writing going?"

The frequent answer:

"I need to/have to/just got to get back into it."

"Back into it."  That's the key.

Like writing is a pair of jeans you outgrew.  Your favorite jeans.  The ones you  spent too much on, but they gave you booty.  The ones that got you booty.  Those jeans.  

You just need to get back into them.


But, cause, see now, as Jaha knows, those jeans might not be all that anymore.  They might be last year's jeans, or - last decade's jeans.  

         These jeans will not ever kiss these lips or
          hug these cheeks again
     And the beauty finally
     Is that I don’t want them anymore
          They are not big enough to
               hold the woman I am today

What you are really trying to get into is

a past self.


What should we do with that?

I just have to get back into it is code for:

I'm not writing.  I'm not setting aside any time for it.

And I feel bad about it.

My rule - and I'm big on de-cluttering - is:  get rid of anything that makes you feel bad.

So - wait - get rid of writing?  

Um, not exactly.  The thing that makes you feel bad is the not writing.  Not the writing.  The absence of writing makes you feel guilty when you speak with another writer or artist or someone who believes in your gift.

So get rid of not writing. 

You can do this several ways.

First and obviously, you can write.  In an easy manageable way.  Little moments a few times a week.  One hour on a Sunday.

When you tell me you need to get back into writing, you are telling me you're neglecting self.  Because if you were taking care of self, you'd be answering that question in a different way.  You'd be telling me what your priorities actually are now and how writing might or might not be part of those.  You'd be telling me the truth.  "Getting back into it" is a deflection.  It sounds a lot like,  "I used to be someone who used to write and if I can just go back and become that person again, I could write."  Right.

Let go of the not writing means let go of trying to be who you were when you last remember writing as an urge.  While you are busy trying to recapture that feeling in order to write, you are not writing.  You are changing and growing in myriad ways that might inform the writing if you sat down to it, but you are telling yourself that it needs to fit you like that old pair of jeans or you can't do it.

Stop making yourself feel bad that you are not writing.  Stop trying to squeeze yourself into a past perception.  Just be here and go with that.

This feeling comes up a lot when dealing with unfinished projects.  Go ahead and hate everything you've written up to now when you were a different person 6 months or two years ago, and figure out what you have and want to say now.

Now is the only you.

The jeans you have on now are your jeans.  The words you write today are the ones that fit you.

Everything else is you making yourself feel bad.  Raising mismatched expectations of self and even...romanticizing writing.

Don't do it.  Back away from that precipice.  Now, please.  Steady.

"I wrote in college."  "I used to journal."  "I used to write poetry."  Wistful sigh.

It's not romantic!  How many writers do you know sitting around drinking absinthe and having sexy rendez-vous in cafes?  That's what I thought.

Romantic has a way of feeling nostalgic and, then, again, leads to something you used to do.  You pine for this thing like an unrequited love that is doomed because....well, because that feels like a good story.  Something unattainable is always a good story.  In fiction.  Go ahead and write that.  This is your life.  Life is about growth.

The writers you know sit with their laptops and their caffeine of choice and they pound it out daily.  You don't need skinny jeans for that.  You need focus.  

Get real.  Get today.  Get you.  

Get Back is a song by The Beatles.  It is not what you need to do in order to write.

Get Here is a song by Brenda Russell.  It is what you need to do in order to write.

Get it?

To recap:

Option 1:  Write.

Option 2:  Give yourself permission to be only and exactly who you are right now in order to write.

Option 3:  Give yourself permission to let go of the before - the how it used to be, or feel - thank it, and let it go. 

Why are 2 and 3 options even if they don't actually include writing?  Because writing or the lack of it isn't really the issue here (unless you're on a delivery deadline!).  The issue is the need to assimilate the changes you've made in your life and feel comfortable with them in order to enter into a safe creative zone.  Acceptance of who you are now, and what your practice may or may not be is going to be key to writing.  Guilting yourself over a project you are choosing not to finish (yes - it's a choice) is not going to get anything happening.  

Unless you are on a deadline for an article, book, thesis - you don't have to write.  You are making the choice to do so.  Holding on to the idea that you are making a choice to write, but then consistently not writing is angst-making.  Who needs more angst?  Let. It. Go.

Here's a writing exercise to start with - go ahead and write out why you think I am completely wrong and you just need to get back into writing to write.

If that leaves you high and dry, how about free-writing on  the tyranny of skinny jeans and hipsters...the Fauxtelligentsia, if you will...

(Sorry so snarky.  Hipsters got me down.)

Okay - a real writing exercise- free write on these questions:  

What self have you left behind that you really miss?

What self have you left behind that you are so happy to do without?

(This blog is part of a series - you can look the others up on the side, or go to the blog search and type "writing is not a Mystery" - either should work.)


francescab said...

Well, you caught me trying to get into those skinny jeans. There was a time when I wrote in my journal obsessively-incessantly-compulsively, like it was the only thing that was going to hold the cells of my body together. I started missing that old me, and forgot about the now me who owns more drawing pens than writing pens. Thanks for the reminder.

E. Amato said...

Thanks for posting this here! Yeah - it happens a lot. It happens in different forms to everyone. Being present really means being present. Growth does mean leaving certain things behind - in as benevolent a way as possible.