A friend of mine wrote to me scared about an opportunity he has in that his girlfriend is going away for 21 days and he has practically the whole time to himself to write. He’s wanted to write more but he suspects that he might instead sit around in his underwear, let the dishes pile up, and watch a lot of stupid television shows. (if you laughed, his words) There’s a lot in what he says that resonates a ping for me.
Let me start with fear. I am more terrified today when I am about to write something new than I was when I got started trying to write everyday. I think I know enough to know how badly I could screw everything up. I’ve got Chekhov, Dubus, Ford, Boyle, and Chabon in my head and every sentence that I write is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich next to a Giada (see the Food Network) creation. When I’m revising, no problem. I’ve got something to work with and I can read it over and over, dink around with the sentence, chop paragraphs and put them back. I can layer in images related to character or setting and cut what doesn’t add up to much.
As for my fear of the new sentence, I worked up a lot of what I’d call “warm ups.” I read a poem or two from Poetry Magazine. Since I’m not so smart there are always a few words I don’t know. I look those up, log the definitions, and then I type in the context of the poem. I try to look over one of those pages a day. I don’t really learn the words as they pop up and surprise me once in awhile. It was like that in basketball. People who saw me play will laugh that I use this analogy. I don’t know that I had moves in as much as I just tried to run past people and shoot. But I think words and sentences pop out like dribbling moves on a baskteball court. You drill and drill, you immerse yourself in the langauge, and then in the games (when you write for real) every once in awhile you surprise yourself with something new.
I’ve lost my way a bit from where I started here, but I keep telling myself that’s what I like about a blog. I can be a little off my game, not pay total attention to my focus, but still find my way into something new to think about, find my way into 1 little bit about something I care about. If you write, I wonder how you get going, I wonder if you’ve got half the hang ups as me that you must cling to in order to get started.