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Friday, December 25, 2015

Writing Fire

I did it. I spent almost every day of November writing for at least 15 minutes every day. The one day I missed, I made up the next day with double time.

Most of what I wrote was towards the goal of revising the novel I drafted in 2013 during Camp Nanowrimo. I had taken a year off from that process during 2014-2015 and have been gung-ho to return since my WAC (writersandcritters) writers' retreat in spring of 2015.

So I was feeling great at the end of November, proud of my stick-to-it-ness and thinking if I kept up the pace I could get through the entire draft again by summer.

Then the first Saturday night of December I sat down at my desk and I felt my heart start to race and my stomach to clench. This was ridiculous. To finish a novel with any quality at all at 15 minutes a day? For one thing, I also need to parent, stick to my goals of regular yoga and meditation, other short writing projects that I feel driven to write, another project due in July (to be discussed later - related to my 40th birthday), a healthy amount of exercise and, uh cleaning and, oh wait, yeah, I also teach 30 hours a week not mentioning prep. time, tutoring and my additional role this year as a mentor for new teachers in my grade.

Even 15 minutes every day is too stressful.

To do it with depth is ridiculous.

So I tried a new take. First of all, I took a break from the novel. WAC expects me to submit two writing samples and four critiques of other people's samples every month. However, they take two weeks off at the end of December. So with the freedom of nothing due, I sat down last Friday and wrote... just wrote, by hand, in a notebook that no one will see but me. I write by hand rarely because it's less efficient when I'm ready to submit something, but now I had fallen out of love with writing and I needed to get back in. To love a person it really helps to actually be in the same room with them and not remove yourself with a screen.

(I'm not even going into what I've learned as a special education teacher about the different neurological process of forming letters and words by hand instead of by typing.)

That Shabbat instead of reading a novel I flipped through Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg for the first time in years, and began rereading cover to cover from my favorite writing book, Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

I wrote again Saturday night, and then again Sunday morning, finishing one draft that I hope to look at and maybe revise, but maybe I won't as I don't know yet what's there.

A writer friend said we are defined by the things we do every day... so to say you are a writer you must write every day. However, I'm a teacher too, and don't show up to work on weekends. I certainly don't want to be the kind of person who romantically claims to be a... a writer... and never writes anything, but even when I can't write, I know that ultimately I will have to write. I just have to. So even if I quit for days, weeks, even months at a time, I will come back to it.

I will not necessarily come back to other things I've thought I was: bicyclist, basket maker, musician. I like to bike and make baskets and play music, but they are not in my blood. I only dabble. I don't ask or need them to be part of my identity.

So right now I'm trying to compartmentalize my week a bit. Instead of spending a little of every day on all of the things I love, I'm trying to group some things and weekday activities and some as weekend. It's not as easy as it sounds. My physical and mental health depend on daily yoga and meditation, and the weekend gets very full with everything else that can't happen during the work week, like laundry. However, I think I really can spend some more real time on writing on the weekend, at least for now. Some other things will suffer, no doubt, but right now this isn't negotiable. I have to do this. If I can pour my writing more into Friday through Sunday, I think I can do it better. If some of it is for show and some of it is not, I'm entering writing headspace again. If I can maybe jot down something during the week that writer's see, then I'm tapping it too.

One final note, halfway through my writing this blog post I had to take a break to go to a friends' birthday party. Someone at the party remarked that she used to have hobbies but just haven't time in this stage in her life.

I started to feel a little guilty, that I can do this and she "can't." And I'm not judging anyone else's choices, but I just need to be clear. Writers have to write, however they do it, even if it means having a messier house or leaving parties earlier or getting up extra early or even only devoting certain weeks of the year to their craft. We just have to. How other desperate writers make this happen is their business.

This is how I'm handling it right now.

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