Monday, May 2, 2011

Meditations on The Writing Practice: The Mind Game

Like golf, writing is a mind game.  Each day you have to talk yourself down from procrastination in all its beguiling forms:  cleaning the refrigerator, emailing long-lost friends you don’t really care about . . . I’ve been known to exercise just to put off writing.  Why is it so hard to write that first sentence every day?  Because once you have one sentence down, others follow and you’re off and running, more or less.  I can tell you that the answer isn’t in figuring it out.  Not that you shouldn’t try to understand your reluctance to do the thing you love most.  It’s just that while you are navel gazing, you could be writing.  Navel gazing, sitting and worrying about why you can’t write is not an exercise in self-knowledge when you do it instead of writing.  Write a line or two and then worry about why it is so hard.

Regard writing as important as any life or death activity, such as feeding your children, and you will get to it.  But like mealtime, you don’t have to serve a ten course banquet to get the job done.  Sometimes a snack is all that’s needed to tide your beloved over until the dinner bell rings.  A line or two of prose, five minutes of description and you’re done.  A few of these morsels every day, and you can find yourself building up your tolerance until you find you can complete a paragraph a day, a page or four. 

If you don’t feed your offspring every day, you know what will happen.  And if you don’t write your lines every day you starve as well.  In time your spirit withers, your confidence crumbles, recriminations rob you of the sense of fulfillment that comes from saying, I did my writing today.  Even if you just get a few words down, you nourish yourself.  And then do it again tomorrow.

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