Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"I CAN'T!" Notes on resistance in life and writing...

Resisting the paparazzi. July 4, 2014
My darling daughter, Stella, is twelve and a half now, prone to the vagaries of tween moods and whims, with a little extra spice from the "typical" stubbornness commonly exhibited by people (especially adolescents) with Down syndrome. When she is asked to do something and doesn't want to, which happens with alarming frequency, she has taken to protesting, "I CAN'T!" in a voice harsh with impatience.

I know how Stella feels. There are so many things I "should" do--or even "want" to do--that provoke serious resistance in me. Whether it's exercise, or eating right, or the proverbial cleaning my room, I feel like I'm twelve and a half and find myself having to be my own parent--or, worse, just giving in to the "can'ts" and not doing anything.

Writing, unfortunately, is one of these things. Although I identify as a "writer" and a "teacher of writing," and there is nothing like the feeling of being lost in language and in the flow of creation, I admit that I do not always see putting words on the page as a fun and exciting activity.

I hate my notebook
Today, struggling to stay at the desk, I decided that the problem was my notebook. I use several kinds in my writing life--small spiral pads to tuck in purse or bag for random notes and emergency jottings; cheap spiral notebooks for "morning pages," venting, or serious scribbling; decent, sensible composition books with solid-color covers for drafting things I think will eventually develop into poems or prose pieces.

Last time I replenished my cheap spiral supply I decided to upgrade and ended up with this lovely monstrosity. I liked the color. I liked the rigid cardboard backing. I liked the sturdiness of the spiral wire, which surely would resist the squishing and unwinding and snagaliciousness I'd experienced with the cheapies.

Here the problem: I hate it. It's too nice--too sturdy, too big, too many pages. It's narrow rules, so it fits too many lines per page. If I follow Julia Cameron's dictum to write three longhand pages every morning, no matter what, I have to write and extra half page, at least, than I would in the old cheapies.

Truthfully? Dear Notebook, it's not you, it's me. I'm feeling frustrated with myself, my lack of discipline, my misuse of precious free time, my inability to write about anything important, anything clear and powerful, anything other than how much I hate you.

Let's call a truce. I will give you more attention if you will stop being so daggone intimidating. Let my pen flow over your pages. Let me stop after only two pages instead of the requisite three--and let me go beyond those two when I am on a roll. Let me ride the wave of words and get into the flow space, where time disappears and I am purely in the moment, purely myself or someone or something outside myself.

I CAN. If only for a little while. If only.


Jessica Lemmon said...

Four words save me from this epic spiral: write for the trash can. And another adage: "you can't edit a blank page." Often my process feels like write, write, delete, delete, delete, write. But always, I end up with more words than whence I started. I agree with you: YOU CAN.

Anonymous said...

Writing is one of those things I both love and hate - yes there is that inexplicable feeling that amazing feeling when everything is flowing and smooth and makes sense. But many days it can be painful or a drag. Sometimes I look at what I've written and absolutely hate it. And then I think I'm weird for hating something that doesn't impact me in any way with the exception that ironically I am the one who produced it. Does this make any sense?? LOL

Amy Lemmon said...

Thanks for these, Jessica and Mira! Yes, Mira, it all makes sense to me. The struggle of the writer is usually very personal and internal, not so much about audience as about the self.

Caroline Dawn said...

Writing out your thoughts on piece of paper can give us a lot of peace if written with the intention of self contentment only. When written to show our skills, our skills and our love for them often start deceiving us. We want to write as a perfectionist and we never find anything perfect. Be it one page, two pages or be it a ten pages exceptionally well written article, we will always find nooks. But I guess that this is what keeps helping us get better! So keep believing yourself because you know you are the best. :)

Jayne Michaels said...

Well stated, Amy. The frustration can be oppressive when any of us tries to write and it is not pouring out. It's like a dark, ominous cloud overhanging not just my head and shoulders, but sometimes it feels as if the entire room is dragging. There are times, like Jessica said, when writing garbage is all that can happen. And even that is a victory at times. But when the creative sun begins to shine, and muse blooms, the writer's world is buzzing with life once again. Now I just need to get over my own personal fears of inadequacy. Sometimes I want to pull a blanket over my head when I see someone reading my work. I feel truly exposed at that moment. Perhaps blogging and e-publishing will be a good fit for me and my little anxiety.