Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Problem with Writing

I used to want to be a writer. When I was like six. Okay, maybe seven. I had a typewriter and I'd settle in to write, rolling in the pages one by one. I would always think long and hard about the title first. That was my jumping off point. I imagined I was Snoopy, hunched over the top of his doghouse, tippity tapping away. "It was a dark and stormy night...." In homage to the dog I actually started at least one unfinished novella exactly like that.

I did writing type stuff all through junior and high school. Little bits. Even then I felt the odd pull of what people wanted me to produce against what was coming out naturally. Of course in school it's all pretty whiny and self-centered. I consider that I haven't really changed that much. I start probably 90% of my sentences with "I", and I do notice. I do. I went to Quartz Mountain summer arts camp for creative writing. Eventually it got hard to produce back then. It scared me. I worried about running out.

I stopped wanting to be writer. Foolish, I thought. Who could possibly live as a writer? (Sorry, boo.) Plus how could you possibly keep producing? I worry about people who do it for a living, and the critiques they get after years of cranking it out. I am just not that brave. Not for that. Now, I did find something to jump off a cliff for. I'm still measuring the distance between where I'm standing and the edge. Calculating. Doubting, for sure.

And yet, writing is part of that. I have to be able to communicate with written word. It is very important to me, and I can't really explain that. Not beyond my other urges, which include the usual and needing to drive for hours on end. No, I must write. It's like that somehow got included in the promises I've made. I keep wondering "how did You slip that in there?" Dude.

Facebook. Connections. Written word. Say no more. Feelings, motivated by history, motivated by feelings, motivated by competition. A healthy version of running around the school yard playing tag? Whatever it is, it has me smiling intensely.

I'm largely motivated by the much-cooler-than-me friends who have been blogging and chatting it up for years now. They toss me positive nuggets and that keeps me going. Then I get quiet and run out of shit to say. Sometimes I really don't have a thought, beyond what's in front of me. If you haven't had the privilege of turning me down on Facebook yet, you can always go directly to my profile page to see what's been in front of me in half hour intervals for the past three months. Because I manage to find enough OCD to check in with the world via Twitter.

Now THAT'S an odd thought, said the woman who broke up with her last girlfriend because the woman wanted to know what was going on daily basis. Sheesh. She shoulda waited until I really started tweeting. I could probably go a week or more without calling.

Sometimes -- like now -- I really don't know what it is in my prose that works. People tell me I'm funny. I know I'm not always funny. In person I occassionally have the perception that what's funny isn't exactly what I meant to be funny. I'd bet money that what I think is a zinger goes thud and the following sentence, full of wit-n-wisdom is actually the punchline.

But that's regular life, really. Day to day. What I find that doesn't feel good about writing is the ebb and flow of the ease, the gush of words, the rush of I need to say this. Sometimes it feels good, and sometimes it's work. And now I feel like a gluttonous hedonist, addicted to the fabulous feeling when it comes easy, and not willing to work.

Will work for job that also requires passion...? I know how to work for stuff I don't care much about. Software... don't care much about software, but I've written my share. Don't care much about managing people. They really piss me off. I consider it practice for not losing my shit. I'm finding that practice useful. Perhaps when I get that down, a magic door will open for me and I'll be whisked off to HUC where I'll submerge myself in ancient, dusty texts and Hebrew and Aramaic will swirl around in my brain effortlessly.

What will they want me to write?

What am I supposed to learn from this point? How do I get to the next step?

So really it all boils down to the rise and fall of self-esteem... the perpetually fluctuating ratio of insecurity and positive feedback. Pulled by the moon? Riding high, I feel on point and sure. The low end is the bottom falling out, silent screaming. Climbing, falling, we're usually somewhere in there. Hang on children, we're all on the ride. Some of just enjoy it more than others.


  1. This is a nice bookend to my post about practicality and all that. Not to refer it back to me but it just seems that they go together, don't you think? I too have always felt the need to write and have never really taken it very seriously. Sometimes, I get angry or sad when I realize that I am just now figuring myself out and I am FORTY. Time is running out.

  2. @Vik: Oh yeah, they definitely go together. Esp as I read your blog before I started writing mine. I liked what Ali B commented on your blog, about how to open doors that were shut long ago.

    Life is too short. I'm sure all of us turning 40 is part of realizing that time is running out. That's why I'm on this crazy breakneck-speed race to the rabbinate. WTF is wrong with me? Sometimes I think I go too slow... sometimes too fast.

  3. I think it was Harlan Ellison who once said (I'm loosely paraphrasing from memory here),

    "I'm not an author. I'm a writer. An author is someone who gets his name on the cover of a bestseller. A writer is someone who cannot stop himself from committing every vagrant thought he has down on paper. A writer writes. I'm a writer. That's what I do. I do a lot of it."