Thursday, January 12, 2006

I have not been in a blogging way for some time. Sure, there were the holidays and the New Year's post-partum funk and then the "when it rains it pours" style of getting new work, but the real truth is that when I'm really writing, I 'aint blogging.

What does that mean, "really writing?" It means different things to different people, but it means that I am making myself, first thing in the morning, pen 1000 words of a work of fiction, all pure mind-drain-no-craft-involved wordage because I should.

By 'should,' I don't mean because I'll get in trouble or anything. I mean because writing is to me what praying and meditating and exercising and vitamin-taking is to others. If I don't do it, I feel like crap. Cranky. Bitchy. Depressive.

I was determined not to set New Year's resolutions, because I think it's a bad idea to only make intentions to change once a year. I set monthly intentions. But there is one thing I think I need to do all year long, thus a resolution: focus on process, not product.

You see, I have these little demons of ambition that have worked well for me in many ways, but have caused me an equal amount of suffering. They aren't satisfied by 1000 words of fiction a day, by self-entertaining, by writing for the pleasure of it. These fang-toothed, drooling little beasties want ACHIEVEMENTS and they want them NOW, and BIG and, of course, with lots and lots of VALIDATION. (They speak only in caps, too, you see. Very pushy little devils).

Some people speak of being competitive or ambitious proudly, but I have always felt about my ambition and my competitive streak the way I do about a stain of blood on my underpants--not really keen for anyone to see it. I don't think these are bad qualities, these twin demons, after all, get things done in the world and are responsible for much of what I am grateful about in my life.

But still, I've been having this feeling--more than a feeling, actually, an awareness that is trying to be born in my mind--that life will still be as complicated and dubious, as mysterious and weird when/if I succeed at publishing a novel as it is now. Only it will come with other unforeseen things, like public criticism and people openly expressing their feelings to you about what you wrote, and unforeseen demands. No more or less work, in other words, than I already have now.

Let me put it another way. If I discovered I had a fatal illness or a very short time to live (don't laugh that it's cliche, I bet all of you have lost someone suddenly, even "too soon") what would I focus on? Driving myself to publish, or writing for pleasure? Which would make me feel my life was meaningful?

Yeah. See, that puts it all into perspective for me.

Publishing will happen in its own good time the way that grooves in rocks are made by years of rain or water flow.

So here I go. I'll try to come back sooner next time.



At 5:58 PM, Blogger smart kitty said...

I have a hard time writing for myself. I self-edit to the point of not being able to go on ... if I don't have to. I have the intrinsic motivation, but it's the extrinsic motivation that conquers the doubt and insecurity. New Year's resolution time for me, I guess.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Clare said...

Haha yes, I go through all of this. Competitive, driven to seek external validation, and ashamed of all of it.

And of course when you do finally get that novel published (and I'm not going to deny it, it's a great moment), the goalposts move and you need a bigger further goal. The things that once seemed mythical and barely obtainable (interviews with important people, good reviews, yadda yadda) become devalued because, well, if you can achieve it then it can't be that great, right?

BUT that doesn't mean you don't get pleasure from it all.

If you're anything like me, you'll resolve to stop striving and just start being, experiencing, enjoying the here and now. And then you'll forget. And go back to old habits.

But then when you're being nice to yourself, you'll allow that ambition is the thing that keeps you moving forward. That progression is an important part of being human. That great fiction might pop out as a result. And you can't say fairer than that.


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