Writing Anyway

What’s your excuse not to write?

Usually, my excuse is that I’m busy. I have three daughters! I have a mother who needs me, friends who depend on me, a husband who likes to have his share of attention! Shopping to do!

With my ankle broken, all of these excuses have fallen away. Yes, I can still stumble up and down the steps to do laundry. I have one extra kid of late (Annie is home for spring break). I have managed to drive the car (it’s the left ankle) and I even made it to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug at our local discount theatre. But for the most part, for most hours of the day, I’m sitting in this chair or surrounded by books and notebooks on my bed (or napping; I seem to need about twice as much sleep as usual). My excuses are greatly, GREATLY reduced. Most of the time I’m sitting in this chair with my leg propped up, or it’s propped up in my bed, where I’m surrounded by books and notebooks. So, do I write?

What I’ve discovered is that I still have excuses, and that they are specially tailored for this situation. I’m exhausted (what’s with all the napping?) My leg hurts. My 20-year-olds keep invading my space and turning on the television. (Not to mention the novels I read instead of writing…)

Here’s the thing. We all have excuses. All of the time. If we’re lucky, we also have moments of consciousness in which we can make a conscious choice to face our excuses, to let our dreams (mine=writing) be greater than our excuses.

If Bilbo Baggins can face down a dragon, surely you can face down your excuses.

Try to flip it around. Use any excuse TO WRITE.

The Percheron in the Tunnel

“I want to enlarge my knowledge of the world because the world is such a staggering and uncanny and heartbreaking place.” -Jim Shepherd

Yesterday I came across a video lecture by writer Jim Shepherd that profoundly moved me. I dreamed about it — that Percheron in the coal mine. You can read it here; at the bottom of the article (from the Williams College site) you’ll find a link to the video.


Where Do You Work?

image from www.allyou.com

Lately I have felt like a one-woman tutoring center, helping to write English papers — one, notably, at midnight — and Political Science papers and Northwest History papers, graphing sunspots for Physical Science (that was interesting), and running through index cards of Spanish vocabulary. But my two oldest daughters are — finally — on spring break. Which leaves Emma, whose teachers seem to have ganged up on the assignments. Out of six classes, she has homework in four of them tonight. So we have decamped to Barnes & Noble (first time since my ankle injury). Emma is drinking a Hazelnut Mocha Frappuccino (did I spell that right?) and I’m having a Chai Tea Latte (stomach wonky from taking pain meds). Annie came along, ostensibly to drive, but she’s drinking a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (no coffee in hers either) and doing something or other on her laptop.

One would think it would be more efficient and cheaper (at the very least) to work at home. But sometime back in the years of the Annie&Pearl high school circus, it became apparent that I had to do something different if I was going to get my non-academic kids to actually focus on their work. It must have something to do with my own background as a waitress, that the whoosh of coffee machines and clatter of dishes, not to mention people talking at the table behind us, helps me ignore the clutter in my own head and concentrate on a bit of work. My kids do not have restaurant backgrounds, and still it seems to work for them, too.

Just for good measure, here’s an old poem (one of mine).

English Café

The hostess greets us with a simile, waves
her oversized thesis like a shield.
Will you have regular verbs?
My friend orders braised clause

with a side of apostrophes.
I want only articles and prepositions.
Our waitress prompts, No dative?
No genitive?
She offers Shakespeare

or D. H. Lawrence for dessert.
We sip from snifters of Strunk & White,
trade adverbs as coordinating
conjunctions rise languidly to dance.

(Between parentheses, a gerund
cracks jokes.) Our repast now
past tense, we pay in participles, tip
a metaphor. As we slip

through a semicolon’s swinging door,
our waitress calls after us, You’ve forgotten
your predicate,
a ring of modifiers on circle of nouns.



Where My Heart Wants to Be

Okay, okay, so it really is broken. The fibula has a nice diagonal crack in it, and the talus is probably broken, too. (Treatment is the same, no worries the PA said.)

I’m not worried, I just don’t want to wear this dang boot 24/7. I don’t want to keep all weight off the ankle for the next four weeks.

In my roaming across the blogosphere today I came across this video of Steven Pressfield talking with Oprah Winfrey. I am going to take his advice to put my ass where my heart wants to be. I want my ankle to heal. I want to finish this novel and move on to the next. This chair (with this laptop computer, and wearing this extremely uncomfortable boot) is where that’s going to happen.

My daughters are working on final papers for history and English classes. This advice did not really work for them. “My heart is not involved in this paper,” one said. But is her heart set on getting an AA degree and eventually becoming a music teacher? Well, abstractions are hard when you’re 20. I get that.

But, still. Where does your heart want to be? How do you put your a** there?