Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Trouble With Studying Creative Writing...

...are the writers themselves. They say you're supposed to write every day and they tell you to write about anything at all, just so long as you're putting words on the screen, and Anne Lamott gets even more specific, saying you should write 300 words every day, even if all you can write about is how much you hate writing. Just write. Every day. It's like weight training for your imagination or, at the very least, your typing skills.

Lamott also says you should accept the fact that you may be in a "dry spell" creatively, and instead of beating your head against the keyboard in frustration, you should write your 300 words and get out, because "Your Unconscious can't work when you're sitting there breathing down it's neck." True, but also not true, because in the case of my unconscious mind, I have to stand over its desk and monitor its progress if there is any hope of getting anything done. As far as creative dry spells, also known (horribly) as writer's block -  a term that always reminds me of a public decapitation in medieval times - I seem to have more of these than the Mojave desert.

It would seem that in order to have a proper dry spell, I must first have a wet spell, a period of time when I'm leaking creativity from every orifice, just squirting it at everything I see, but I don't seem to have these wet spells, and I'm starting to think that may be because I only ever write things down when I have all the basics of a piece worked out in my head, at least to the extent that I feel like my ideas are going somewhere, as if the destination is what's important when I know really it's the interstate and the truck stops and the road construction and the flat tires and the fart wars and the battle for the CD player that matter. The problem with waiting to write until I have well-formed ideas is that I can't ever fucking remember anything unless I write it down, and now you should be picturing a snake eating its own tail because HELLO DYSFUNCTION and WELCOME SELF-DEFEATING HABITS. Catch-22 on a stick - the newest Minnesota State Fair food.

But I'm buuuuuuusy, I whine. Or, I'm sleeeeepy. Or huuuuungry. But the wedding! And what about the laundry? THERE MUST BE CLEAN UNDERWEAR, I declare, ignoring the obvious, that there are 30 to 50 minutes between times when I am actually needed to do anything to the laundry, it's not like I'm out there by the river beating my thong against a rock or anything, so how do I justify the not writing then, huh? The truth is that I don't justify it at all, I simply tell myself that I write for fun and fun alone, that I shouldn't force myself to do anything that isn't fun, don't push myself because maybe it will stop being fun, and that wouldn't be any fun at all.

There is also the small matter of me being drunk all the time, and there is something about being tipsy that somehow reinforces the FUN ONLY policy, and then I wake up and it's morning and I forgot the idea I had meant to write down, can only remember that it had something to do with octopus taxidermy, and now not only have I not written anything, but with the flight of my brilliant idea goes my inspiration followed closely by my discipline, and lastly my brain, and I'm left with the stale vodka sloshing around in my otherwise empty skull. And I need to pee.

And then something comes along which reaffirms why I write in the first place - something like a great comment on my blog or an attagirl from a classmate or an award from the university - and suddenly I'm propelled (almost against my will), limbs flailing helplessly, back into the make-believe world in my head, and when I arrive in my personal Wonderland, I'm greeted by the shadowy people who live there and the pre-possibilities which sometimes become real in that place, and I remember the ideas that I'd lost to late nights and reality television. I remember why I came here in the first place, to this strange and incredible home.

Goddamn 300 words.