Friday fessing: Baby steps

I need a writing project. Something that drives me to write, to revise, something that keeps me up at night. At the moment most of the writing I do is in the form of morning pages, blogs and case notes (in that order). But today I feel anxious and becalmed. It probably doesn’t help that I just had a row with my mom over the curtains.

You’re not doing it correctly. Why did you take the whole thing down? Your father does it in 10 minutes….

Mom, you’re not helping. They’re down now so just help me or go back to your room. (And so on for a good few minutes while I struggle with the intricacies of re-hanging heavy curtains.)

Sit down at my computer and the mower starts up. There’s no way that I’m going to get away with letting my 69-year old mother mow the lawn all by herself. I reluctantly walk down to help her. Gussie didn’t come in for her Whiskas … Can you download the emails? … You will remember to walk the dogs, won’t you?

No wonder I can’t write a thing. I don’t need a writing project. I need my own house again – or at least a bit more privacy. But for the next few months I’m stuck here. I keep reminding myself that it’s one step at a time.

Actually I already have a writing project. It may not be a very sexy one but I should go ahead and finish it. I’m bound to get more enthusiastic along the way. The goal was this: write 20 articles around the themes of Empathy and Violence. I keep getting distracted with thoughts of writing a short story, a poem, an op-ed piece for the papers.

But these never really materialise and today the anxiety and laziness are winning. I’m not ready to give in yet but I’m clearly not making progress. To help myself, I’m breaking it down into baby steps. 1. Buy an exercise book to plan this project. 2. Make room for it on my writing stand. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. Having things down on paper is so much more helpful than trying to keep everything on computer. I’m going to work my way through the 20 articles. They don’t need to be fantastic, publishable (at this stage) but they need to be thought-through.

I’m also going back to gym and, on a related topic, I’m finding some writing exercises to stretch my creativity as well. One that I thought of is also an exercise in empathy:

Imagine you’re gay. Describe your day from this perspective. What would be different? What would stay the same? (Maybe I should also reassure P that this is just an exercise!)

Update: This exercise makes me uncomfortable for a number of reasons, but I think the main one is that it treats the issue of identity (more specifically sexual identity) in a simplistic way. Just the instruction itself: “Imagine you’re gay” already sets up an ‘othering’ process where gayness is considered something separate and different, something that has to be imagined. Rather than edit it out, I thought it might be helpful to confess my discomfort here (but I’ll save the rest of this discussion for another post.)


5 Responses to Friday fessing: Baby steps

  1. Emily says:

    i also find exercising helps when i need a creative boost, so the gym is a great idea.

  2. Natalian says:

    I can relate to your frustration. I am trying to work through “The Sound of Paper” by Julia Cameron to jolt my creativity and the challenge for me is to actually find the ‘personal space’ I need to focus on my writing and painting. I believe that writing as opposed to typing is important. In my journals ther are bits scratched out, arrows pointing everywhere and even a few doodles! To anybody else it looks like a mess but for me it is part of the creative process of writing.

  3. Courtney says:

    growing distracted from writing by thinking of other writing projects…I think that’s the bane for many of us. When I am writing I always end up thinking about my next project and really have to force myself to focus on the current one by reassuring myself there will be time, there will be time….sounds like you have a great goal!

  4. Pete says:

    Emily – yes, I have to try and do it in moderation though. I either don’t run at all or I do what I did yesterday – run a half marathon just for the sake of it. I wasn’t feeling very creative afterwards!

    Natalian – I can relate about the journal doodles. Computers really don’t give you the same effect. I always like to do a brainstorm of a story I’m trying to write with arrows going every which way. The Cameron book sounds interesting – I read The Artist’s Way a while back.

    Courtney – That’s good advice about there being enough time for other projects. I know I need to be more focussed about this, so I’m hoping that blogging about it helps.

  5. doctordi says:

    Pete, I don’t know if this will help with your current and quite specific goal, but I came across Louise Doughty’s A Novel in a Year a little while ago, and while it was too late for me on the current project (it has weekly exercises that assume in week one that your time starts NOW), I do think it’s very useful, and may start with it once I’m free of this albatross. It sets realistic goals, and having a clear, weekly task seems a good way of avoiding the procrastination doldrums I think most of us fight on a near-daily basis. See? Look what I’m doing right now…

    You know what I think about running: I can no longer imagine my writing life without it.

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