It’s over! (Whew!)

By guest blogger Bob Sabatini

Here we are at the end of another March. How’s the writing been coming? You feel like you created something wonderful? How about your goals, did you meet those?

For myself, I hold my goal up against what I actually accomplished, and if I do that, I come to the conclusion that… well…

I suck.

I wanted to write 31 dramatic monologues, and I’m stuck at 11. And I got writing of any kind done on fewer days than that. Easy thing to do would be to blame my job, I’ve put in several 12 hour days over the past couple weeks. But I would be lying if I said that I don’t have time to write. I do, the medium I set out to tackle is so short–less than a page, usually–and I am not striving for anything really polished, just rough first drafts. I mean, an hour at most if I hunker down, and I definitely have an hour of leisure time, even on the busiest days. I’m not going to say I’ve run out of ideas, either. What has proven much more difficult than I was expecting was finding the voices to speak for more than a few distinct speakers. So, while I had plenty to say about compassion, forgiveness and resistance, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was compiling a 31-installment gripe, which was not the direction I wanted to go with this project.

Except, that doesn’t seem to be the note I want to go out on, the kind of judgment I want to pass on myself or anyone else who set a goal and didn’t make it. So,

no I don’t suck, and neither do you!

I have eleven pieces I didn’t have on March 1. Seven of them I’m not just happy with but am damn proud of. It’s not 31, but it’s more than zero. And ultimately, this is the message I want to go out with at the end of the month. If you smashed through all your goals, wrote the 50,000 words you wanted or the complete book of poems, or even if you really just sat down for an hour each day and actually wrote during that time, good for you. If you didn’t… good for you anyways for making the effort.

In sunnier times, I’ll look on the failure to meet some writing goal (a business model for improved productivity) as something I can afford to get down on myself for. But not when we’re weathering a storm. Under the deluge of the current administration, if I can produce a single life preserver to buoy and lighten the spirits of another person, to make them feel less alone or less persecuted, I have achieved something to be proud of. I keep going back to a different excerpt from the same video Sam plugged a few days ago, the commencement speech given by Neil Gaiman. “When things get tough, this is what you should do: make great art.” I don’t see that necessarily meaning to churn it out relentlessly.

These are very trying times, and those in power have been unleashing a torrent of negativity in too many areas of civic and cultural life to even begin to enumerate here. Art is how we fight back. When the powerful are insistent on churning out ugliness, the beauty of our words, our paintings, our songs, and our prayers have the power to heal. I think they know that too, or else why would they be so intent on killing public funding for the arts even though it’s such a minuscule part of the budget? Well, that’s the great thing about writing, our supplies are dirt cheap.

One of the trends I have been following on social media and when I go to events like the Women’s March has been a flowering of folk art—quirky signs and tee shirts, beautifully raw yet sincere poetry, videos, and thousands of expressions of love in many types of media—all by people not trained as artists. We all serve to support and uplift one another, and though the burden may be great, there are many many kind souls helping to shoulder it. No need for anyone to beat themself up because they didn’t do “enough.” Do what you can, make the art as great as you are capable of, and of course continue to strive for the improvement of your craft. But whatever you do, don’t give up.

4 thoughts on “It’s over! (Whew!)

  1. Thanks, Bob, for taking the last day! It’s funny, as I read this post and the posts by many others, I think about how 4 years ago, the lot of us were in school. These days, we’re all off in the working world, trying to do our best to keep the writing alive and finish up projects. My own month has been very different than 4 years ago. The last time I did this writer’s march, I didn’t miss a daily goal. This month, I had 3 days of falling off the wagon, so to speak, when family came to visit for a week. Like last time, I was working on “finishing the novel,” which I put in quotes because I have said it so many so many so many times. This month… I actually think I will be doing that. Come April, will be sending it out (again), but this time a much improved version.

    I guess for me, what I’ve gotten out of this month is a few things, but namely, the recognition that all those years of writing about keeping writing goals has actually helped me – I don’t really have trouble with keeping the goals anymore. I don’t have trouble keeping the butt in the seat. To be honest, I love it. It is my favorite part of my day and a regular part of my days, even when I am overwhelmed with work. BUT, the thing that helped the most was the extra push, the feel of being a part of things again, even a small group of writers online, and the fun of reading other people’s posts and comments (and not just living in my own head).

    I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but these are some of my parting thoughts. Also, it is Friday, so I drew myself an I Ching card… I got “Before Completion,” which feels fitting, too. Maybe I’ll post it, just because.

    But before I do that, I’m going to go complete this book. I found the nagging scene that I knew was in there and needed writing. All month I’ve been weeding and pruning and cutting back. It’s a bit scary to grow something again. Fingers crossed!

  2. Bob,this is what I needed to hear. Thank you. I’m impressed that you have 7 pieces. I have none. But then again, I set no goal at all…. for which of course my inclination is to beat myself up for not even trying. But what I DID do this month was one blog post. And I put in my two week notice on a job that was killing me, and not just in the way a 8+ hour day takes it out of you. It was sucking my creativity and I felt stupid and inadequate every day I walked into that office. And thanks too for reminding me about Neil Gaiman’s speech. I’m going to watch that again and go make some art, and March On! no matter what the calendar says.

  3. Bob,
    Thanks for the wonderful post which I so needed to hear. I intended to write every day, and well, let’s just say that didn’t happen. But I wrote a lot more than I have for the past few months (which was nothing), so that alone is an accomplishment. I was once again reminded that when it comes to my writing, a schedule is my friend. I hate it, but writing on a schedule keeps my butt in the chair. So I now have a weekly schedule that sets aside time for writing. And I have the beginnings of a new writing group to hold me accountable and provide feedback. So the biggest thing that happened this month was structure. Never sexy, but essential (for me at least).

    I did write several new poems and revised several others. I entered one of those new poems into a contest and it won first prize (and $100)!!! I also got a bunch of blog posts written. None of which has anything to do with my memoir, which was what I really wanted to be working on. But then, right at the end of the month, I got out some notes for the next chapter I need to write and managed 5 or 6 pages. Plus a list of scenes for the rest of the chapter. Not much, but it’s a start. I’m not giving up.

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