Can I Really Write? How?

“ ‘But how?’ my students ask. ‘How do you actually do it?’ You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively…” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

This is true, I can write and write and write — if you’d call it writing —and it happens best in the morning — IF I don’t get distracted by Facebook and email and laundry and stuff, and IF I do the writing first.

But then, like right now, I feel guilty because I “should” be starting the day with some conversation with God. (Besides which, if I don’t do that first thing, I know I’ll get distracted and totally carry on by myself.) On the other hand, maybe those voices of guilt should be ignored, along with the “should” voices (because I’m pretty sure they don’t come from Him, anyway). Yet if I push those guilty feelings and should voices away, I still have trouble writing because now my creativity seems to have taken wings and flown away.

Still, I do my best to write (because I should?). Oh no! Time is flying by and I need to have breakfast and get ready for my tutoring students. Help?

“… You put a piece of paper in the typewriter,…” she advises.

Ha! Sometimes I wish I still had one! (Yes, I’m that old).

“…or you turn on your computer and bring up the right file…”

Okay. Or I could start scribbling in my journal, which I like doing even more, but that takes so long, and I’ll need to transcribe it onto the computer later, anyway. But I think my handwritten writing awakes my creativity a lot more than a computer keyboard. I wish the day had more hours. Yes?

“…and then you stare at it for an hour or so…. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind… and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind. The other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. They are the voices of anxiety, judgment, doom, guilt….” she continues. “Also, severe hypochondria…”

How very sad but true. How do I drown them?

“….Yet somehow in the face of all this, you clear a space for the writing voice, hacking away at the others with machetes,…” she encourages.

Oh boy, do I relate to this… Ouch.

“….and you begin to compose sentences…”

Or bleed words all over the page, as Y. says, and then I wonder if they count at all.
“You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story. …” she adds.

Sure. That sounds like fun. Beading? I can do that. My inner child clamors up from the hole I buried her in sometime long ago. But seriously (oh boy, here I am pushing her down again) can I? Have I been writing any real stories…or has it all been a pity-party and should I just quit writing and do something more sensible like get a summer job flipping burgers at McDonalds?

“…You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive….” she explains.

Yes, yes, yes! It’s true! I am! And did you say I can write about “real events”? Is that allowed? Oh thank you, thank you! And I can make things up, too? Mix it together? Imaginate? Really? That’s okay, too? Wow. Awesome. Really?

“…But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work….”

Okay, yes — including bleeding all over the page, which seems come easy for me. And which I think a lot of people need to do before they get around to actually writing and publishing. But what if, after all that bleeding and persistence and faith and hard work, I discover no one wants to hear what I have to share? Still…maybe it will be worth it, even if just for me? Yes, I think so.

“…So you might as well just go ahead and get started,” she smiles.

I return her smile shyly, and think to myself: Maybe I could start a “words bleeding all over the page” blog on Medium — an old-fashioned kind of journaling-type blog, but focused on this whole writing adventure thing — or maybe not. Be careful, girl. Or … maybe just toss aside all those guilty voices and those should voices and all my doubts, and take a deep breath and a flying leap into the wild yonder. Yes! I can do that! I can!