Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Idea is to Write for 15 minutes and Not to Stop.

I've done it, now you do it. It is torture, it is fascinating, and there is something in it, deep down, like freedom, like joy. 

Here's mine: 

The idea is to write for 15 minutes and not to stop. No matter if I can’t think of what to say, to hear the thoughts and let them flow; I have silenced my flow, I am beginning to understand, and I edit it down before it can come out. Even now I am doing it; delete delete rewrite better. My hands, the tendons in my hands, begin to burn already, carpel tunnel at 32, and I think, I cannot think if I cannot write. This is how I do it, typing. Long hand is all wrong, too slow. I love that satisfying click click click. I remember being a little girl, in my mother’s study that overlooked the deck. I would sit in her chair and hit the keys on the type writer, clickety-click-click-click, I am a writer, a newspaper woman, a very important journalist. Mary Alice Monroe said that our children tell us, between the ages of 3 and 5, who they are going to be. It’s just that we only realize it in retrospect. I was telling myself that more than anything, I wanted to be a writer.

Now I sit, nearly 30 years later, at my keyboard going clickety-click-click, feeling the beast of the novel that is not getting written lurking in the closet. He will shred my heart. He has long claws that rip and tear and oddly enough, I see him often times, sitting for lunch with my inner critic. I’ll begin the work and you finish her off, she’ll say to him, their heads leaning close because she’s not afraid of his terrible gnashy monster teeth and rotten breath. She’s had tuna for lunch anyways, so who is she to judge?

I begin to think that maybe even though it’s crap, my crap isn’t as bad as other people’s crap: Ego. It makes a fleetingly brave appearance after monster, after inner critic. It shows its true colors quickly as nothing to be relied on by saying that perhaps it is wrong: Fear has arrived. Perhaps this is all a huge plastic waste pile floating in the ocean of Never. What I tried to do but couldn’t. That time I tried to write a novel but could never finish it. Just like my old man.

Why is non-fiction different? It is easy to say the things you think are true when you’re telling people about things you experienced yourself.

But novels are one step removed. And now you’re not being honest, are you, really? You weren’t there, fiction writer. You are only pretending. And what right have you to pretend? Stop the flow. Stop the flow. Go go go. I spend long moments envying imaginations. Other people’s. Wishing I knew where mine was but when I look for it, there is blankness. Can I be okay with blank? That is what I am trying to understand. Blank makes me feel stupid. The nothing. The empty.

The Runes say, Blank the beginning, blank the end. I miss them.

Keep the fingers moving, clackety-clack clackety clack. Who are these faces who have a story to tell from out of the mist? I see their outlines but not their details. They stand there, and I can feel their gazes on me, heavy with meaning.
Then help me, dammit, why don’t you?
You want your story told? Come on in here and do it for me.

This is atrocious.
All these efforts at channeling and finding nothing but blankness.

I want to write about the sunlight through the blinds that finds my puppy Lucy sprawled on the bed, her brown eyes rimmed with short blond eyelashes, she looks at me and I wish I could get lost in the now with her and just breathe and forget and not think about the nothing anymore. Fifteen minutes gone and the chatter continues.
You see? How large this problem is for me? Do you see the size of the monster I have hidden in my closet? He breaches the walls, his back strains against the roof, he rifts house and home with his monstrosity! I have it worse than anyone. We are all the same.
In the trenches.
Nothing is easy. Accept it. Invite it. Sit with it until it becomes something, for however long it takes.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I told myself this between the ages of 3 and 5 although at the time I did not know it.
Even in all the blankness, there is something, some glimmer of light.
It flashes like fish scales in the water.
There is nothing else for me to do but stay. 


  1. Wow. You CAN write. Sometimes I think writing is like acting. You have to inhabit the character. Then it oozes out and it's NOT fiction. You are there. On some plane, in some universe, you are there.

  2. That's a beautiful thought Laurie, thank you. And thanks too for the kind words.

  3. I totally agree - well said! Only my monster is female. Deadlier than the male, after all! My inner strict, old-fashioned schoolmarm, ready to rap my knuckles with a ruler for the slightest mistake. I'm much older, see, & tend to forget what I once knew so perfectly, aged 3 to 5.
    Thanks, Signe, for reminding me! x :)