It has almost been a month since I left the corporate world to write and be a mom. My goal for this first month was to settle down, to see what the new rhythm of my days would look like before I committed to setting any writing goals. And, I also wanted to see what would bubble up from my journaling and writing short pieces of fiction and screenplay based on writing prompts I have gotten from past workshops, dreams, or just whatever popped into my head. Finally, I have been trying to figure out what to do with this site because it is part of my evolution, right? Where I am landing after a month of settling in and becoming more present is here: I am most motivated to write when I write for an audience and can share regularly.
I am reading Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. While reading her second essay “The Getaway Car – A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life”, an idea occurred to me: use this site as a living testament of telling the truth in my art, and the first truth is that I have to model what I preach. Patchett’s essay took me back to my undergraduate days at Vanderbilt as an English major (creative writing concentration), where the last two years was a steady, unrelenting, no-excuses-allowed weekly production of fiction and non-fiction to be reviewed in class. In order to make the grade, I had to write whether or not I felt like it. I had to value editing my work; every grammatical, spelling and punctuation error was a 1-point deduction no matter how brilliant the content. I had to read and provide valuable (not catty) criticism on my classmates’ work. I had to sit and listen to their criticism of my work without the ability to respond to their remarks – no matter how unfounded, stupid or valuable I found those comments – until after all parties got a chance to speak. Most importantly (and totally not appreciated at the time), I had an outlet to keep my creativity channels flowing because I had a deadline…because I had an audience.
Fast forward many years later of putting writing dead last….
I have grown rusty perhaps, but more importantly I have a glut of words, images and stories jamming my creative pipeline, if I may use Patchett’s metaphor. Most of these ideas likely will be unmemorable; a few will be gems. I often feel too overwhelmed to write because of the pressure of this muddy glut of ideas. It’s as if a torrent of pure, foul nonsense will burst forth because there is no order, no structured way to release this content safely downstream and prevent the gems from washing away with the mud. If I have learned anything, it is that artists and our creations do not arrive at birth polished, poised, and perfect (my daughter was born butt-first, shitting a geyser of meconium as the doctor tugged her rather forcefully from my belly). There is no way around the daily practice of our craft, to play in the mud, experiment and identify and polish up the gems. And some of us need the practice because it keeps us alive, unburdens us. Every day, I feel the angst Maya Angelou describes:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
So, starting this week, I will be posting a Story of the Week to help me with my goal of practice. What would be especially challenging (and fun) is for you, gentle reader, to pass along prompts to make this exercise participatory. I am more than willing to do the same to get you going in your daily practice. And the takeaway today: Practice. Begin where you are.
What say you? Any prompts for this week?