Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Media: The Fortunate Writer and Her Uncooperative Brain

It is normal for me to wait until very close to or the day of a writing deadline to actually write, and normally this produces my best work. I like the pressure: I thrive on it. My gears turn, my brain clicks over from the analytical (I have discovered that I am quite an analytical person, I think and overthink and rethink and consider and weigh all sides before just going ahead and doing whatever was my first choice was anyway) to the creative, and I'm able then to sit down and pound out whatever needs to be written.

Today, not so much.

I can't figure it out. I procrastinated all morning. I've had at least a dozen false starts, deleted two dozen first sentences, cursed under my breath three dozen times. I've gotten up, walked around, eaten two pounds of hard candy and lollipops (much to the cringing dismay of my co-workers), I've texted and emailed and thumbed through old "jump start" books and Tweeted. It's taken me until about a half hour ago to write the first sentence, and I hate it. I have to have this piece in today, and I don't even have the last section of information for it. I'm driving myself crazy over it. But I can't write it, and I don't know why.

But here's the rub: I love what I do. I love my job. I love that I get to do my favorite things in the world - writing and reading - and people pay me for it. And I take that for granted until instances such as one a few weekends ago when my good fortune and aligned stars are held up before me to face and humble me.

A few weekends ago I went to a writing workshop hosted by the Council for the Written Word in Franklin, TN. (I heart Franklin, by the way, and would like to just move into one of those shops just off the square. Preferably the stationary shop, because they have lots of paper and pens, and Landmark Booksellers is close by - paper, pens, and books = all I really need to survive.) While there several people approached me (people are always approaching me. I don't know why. I guess I have that sort of open face, one that invites people. And it's usually talking.) and asked me if I'm "writing anything" right now.

The first couple of times I had what I'm sure was my general blank look - glazed eyes cleared by slow blinks, drooping lower lip, and my head dropping toward my left shoulder. I've been told this is what I do when thinking of what to say. I can't imagine how anyone actually knows this, because rarely do I give myself the chance to think about what I'm going to say when asked a question like that. Apparently the look doesn't last for long.

"Sure I'm writing right now," I answered the first couple of times, with a little sniff. "I have to, if I want to eat."

This, after the first few people drifted away looking a little put out, I realized sounded a little snotty. I didn't mean for it to sound snotty, and I realized that, as opposed to the people I deal with on a daily basis, the dedicated men and women in this workshop do not automatically know that I write for a living. Nor do they have the good fortune to write for a living - to write daily, and see their work printed and published in two newspapers, online, and in a magazine. These people, here to glean and learn and soak it in, may have never seen their names in print. They may have never known that first thrill, that little shock of seeing your name in a byline, or the fluttery anticipation of reading your work in a publication as if for the first time, hearing your own voice as you read, clutching the newsprint or magazine glossy between sweaty hands, devouring your own thoughts as greedily as a starving animal.

I was aghast at their lack of fortune. And I felt ashamed at myself for taking the opportunities presented to me, the talent and sheer persistence I have squandered over the years for granted. The next couple of times I answered that question, "Are you writing anything right now?" I smiled, genuinely, and said, "Yes, I am. I get to write every day, and I am lucky to do so."

And writing this blog has served its purpose: I now feel calmer, less "frenetic," as I have been described when I get to this point. I feel able enough, competent and clear enough, to go back to that blank white page with its one long run-on and in desperate need of paring down sentence, and write. And write and write and write, knowing that it will be published in a month in the gorgeous, classy glossy Wilson Living magazine, and that I am a very lucky woman, in many respects, but primarily in that because I love what I do I haven't actually worked in a very long time.

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