Day 12: Writerly Catnaps (“Tuesdays with Nari”)

Often on Mondays I ask my writing students to name the highlight of their weekend. I receive a variety of replies, from the sarcastic “revising my essay” to the provocatively nebulous “doing stuff with friends.” Every now and then a student proclaims “Napping!”, to which I respond “Awesome!” Although many students might think my rejoinder sardonic (and this is usually a safe assumption), in the case of napping it’s always sincere.

I love napping. Long ones, short ones, deep ones, dozy ones, naps are–as much as this admission may not commend me–one of my favorite pastimes. I close the blinds, set my alarm, pull up a fleecy blanket, and slide into sleep. And when I wake up, the tasks that seemed hopeless before suddenly stir with possibility.

On Wednesday of last week, I reached a stage of drafting that felt endless. While I was close to finishing my essay, which I’d started in 2011, I’d read its sentences so many times I didn’t really see them, let alone hear them, anymore. Some words didn’t sound right, but I wasn’t sure why. The structure had kinks, but I wasn’t sure how. My Writer’s March hours passed with minimal progress. Finally, I decided to nap, and by “nap,” I mean “take a break” from my project: I wrote poetry. I drafted one poem during my last hour of writing on Wednesday, another during my writing time on Thursday. On Friday I returned to my stubborn essay, my vision clear, ears alert. The draft improved at a rate I hadn’t seen in a long time. I sent the draft to a writing buddy that afternoon, and yesterday she proclaimed it, aside from a few line edits, “done.” By the end of this Writer’s March, I’ll have sent it out to be read, ridiculed, rejected, and–perhaps–picked up by a magazine editor.

I believe in writerly catnaps. Not multi-week comas, not evasions, but brief respites–a half hour, hour, couple of days, taken only when needed–during which the writer whimsically concocts something new. This other creative project is key. A writerly catnap isn’t a complete vacation; it’s a succinct foray into some other imaginative articulation that keeps one’s voice alive, just channeled in a fresh way. The benefits are (at least) two-fold: First, the writer will regain stamina for her main project. Second, she’ll have started something she might not have otherwise written. One of my new poems was a satire on bad romance novels, the other an acknowledgment of someone I’m worried about. Maybe I’d have gotten around to them at some point, but I’ll never know because I don’t need to find out–now they’ve been formed into existence and when I flesh them out someday they’ll have a chance at becoming resonant.

But whether a writer “naps” by crafting a poem instead of revising her novel, or flash fiction instead of memoir, she must do it with a time limit, then stretch her artistic muscles and return to the original piece in progress–that cantankerous, obstinate, inimitable first love.

Day 26: A Writer’s Confession

I have a confession.  I don’t want to write this post.  It is Day 26, and I am tired.  It is Day 26, and it is late.  It is Sunday night (because yes, I schedule these to post in the morning), and I have to wake up early, and most importantly, I don’t feel like it.  But here I am.

Isn’t this what this Writer’s March is about in the end?  Getting your butt in the seat even when you feel it is impossible.  Even when you think you’d rather scrub your floorboards with a toothbrush.  Or pick the cat hair from the couch with a pair of tweezers.  Or write Thank You cards for all the people you’ve forgotten to thank (for every missed thank you of YOUR ENTIRE LIFE).  Because yes.  Even that would be easier than this.  Sitting and writing when you would rather be anywhere else.

But here I am.  Because there you are.  And tomorrow when I go to write, and I remember my novel, I will remember this moment.  And I will remember that this writing thing is hard.  And I will do it anyway.  I will think of John Dufresne, and keep my butt in the seat, staring at the wall all day if I have to.  I will, as Steinbeck advises, write my page for the day, if that’s the route I decided to take.  Because it is MY part in the process.  MY job (as Elizabeth Gilbert tells us).  Or maybe I will print the thing out and type the page or the poem or the story or the novel over and over and over again simply for something to do that is less agonizing than this (Because Jennifer Simpson says that helped her and maybe it will help me, too.).

Remember, there is a reason I’ve called this “A Writer’s March” and not “Writers’ March.”  While we support each other and encourage each other and inspire each other, in the end, it comes down to one butt.  One seat.  One task for each One person.

because why not use a gardening metaphor... you know, plant seeds, water them, etc, etc, you're a writer, take it from there...

And here we are.  Almost at the end.  At moments like these, the best writing advice I can think of is this:

Set a timer for fifteen minutes.  Sit at your desk with your pen and your paper or your computer, if you are the typing type.  Set the timer, and go.  Whatever you do, do not let the pen stop moving.  Even if you have to write, “I have no idea what to write” over and over again, because at some point, you’ll find some thread to follow.

When you feel like you can’t do it, prove yourself wrong.  Write through it.  That way, the next time you feel like it can’t be done, you’ll remember that you didn’t stop.

Day 11: A Music Video Pep Talk

Okay, so I was all set to write a blog post about keeping up with your goals.  Apparently, people lose track of their new year’s resolutions after three days, and here we are: Day 11.  The one time I tried to do NaNoWriMo, that all out sprint to churn out a novel in 30 days, I think I made it as far as Day 10.  Beginnings, to me, are all about momentum.  Think about losing weight: during those first days, you see the progress fast (and yes, you know, it’s only water, but still, it gives you hope…).  Yet 10 Days in?  The lethargy has set in.  The fatigue.  The one day of skipping your writing has changed to two and then three and before you know it, you are NOT writing more than you are writing.

I had visions of motivational speeches, awe-inspiring pep talks, ground-breaking insight and tips on how to keep plodding along…  but it occurs to me that the only thing that can motivate you now is you.   Can you shift gears?  Can you take your joyful start and keep pushing through?  That in mind, here are four cheesy music videos to cheer you along:

Journey: Don’t Stop Believing

Because how can I not start with Journey?  We are on a journey after all, and the message is pretty simple:  Don’t stop believing…

Survivor: Eye of the Tiger:

Hey man, Rocky can do it.  And so can Sylvester.  I mean, the man made another Rocky movie (supposedly good) even after the flop of Rocky V decades ago…

Vangelis: Chariots of Fire:

::::shrug::::  because why not?  I mean, they can really run, no?

Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross & Whitney Houston: That’s What Friends are for

Because that’s what Writer’s March is for.  To support you.  To motivate you.  To connect you.  You know, to help you through it.  Through good times and bad times.

The message, should you choose to accept it, is simple:  Write on.