Shutting up and doing.


I feel better today, despite the fact it is raining and I took the bus instead of walking to work. Feeling more caught up with myself I suppose or just more settled into being here in BC for the next couple of months.

Although I am generally happy these days, for the last several weeks I have been moaning about two things: 1) being out of shape, and 2) writing. I’m sure that these things seem unrelated, but really they are not, both holding in common the need for self-discipline that for me comes and goes. I can be good, really really good, for periods of time. Going the gym, and/or writing every day – routinizing it enough that it becomes automatic (and pleasurable) in the security that “practice makes perfect”. But then as I am just hitting the right stride, something generally trips me up, usually in the form of personal tragedy or an uber-complex travel and work schedule – and a couple weeks “off” turns into months of feeling crappy about the fact that I let it go again! And the problem isn’t so much that I drop the routine, but that each time I return to it I am a little bit less convinced of my ability to stick to anything.

In any case, I am way out of shape after months of airplanes and meetings and that irritates me to no end. Fat ass or slovenly writing, the solution is pretty much the same, and whinging about it doesn’t really help much (besides being hell on whatever relationship I’m in).

Fortunately it’s summer and for the getting-in-shape part I’m feeling confident with coming nicer weather for walking lots and my YWCA membership which I never let lapse (I figure if I don’t go the gym with it, at least I am contributing the women’s programs in the city with my monthly fee).

But the writing? Well the writing part is always harder because it’s not something I can just do on my own – or at least that’s what I’ve discovered in four years of blogging. The writing, yes, of course I do that by myself. But without an audience it’s just no fun and any project without immediate readers quickly comes to a grinding halt as I find myself plagued with writerly self-doubt compounded all the cliched angst I can muster. Where getting in shape requires me to be left alone (I don’t want no “work-out buddy”), writing is something I like to have a cheerleader or two for. Very narcisstic. But also just a reality. Writing for me is akin to performance, it involves being subject to the “gaze”.

So given this is it possible for me to turn a longer, more-focused work? That’s the question I am facing now as I start to delve into the potential-greenscare-memoir project – last night being a first “discussion” with my friend Mel who is a book editor. She suggested that I send her my rough material (blog posts, journal entries, letters) a little over a month ago and then asked me to think about who my audience might be. Now, for someone who can’t stand the idea of *not* having an audience, I am also *loathe* to define it. Mostly it’s easier for me to define who it isn’t. It is *not* the “movement” for example.

To make a long-ish discussion short, Mel has agreed to play the role of developmental editor to my flailing writing style – which gives me both an audience and a cheerleader in one. And we’ve figured out how we might structure the writing itself to play to my natural strengths. It was a really interesting discussion for me in a number of ways and I find myself believing for the first time that I might really be able to do something here. So yes, besides getting my ass in gear, I plan to spend this summer working my fingers out on the keyboard as well. Not that I don’t have to work and do other things. But really, I pumped out 15,000 words last month just in this space – I’m sure with a little dedication I could throw some of those words towards a weightier project.

Point to all of this being, it’s time, and I know it. Books aren’t going to produce themselves and I think if I can get one story out to completion, then the next one will get easier (and I’ve got a novel in the back of my head that keeps coming back to me). I’m also pretty certain that Viaduct will give me some more focused writing practice of some variety. So I suppose I have to approach this business just like the YWCA – one twenty minute increment at a time until I’m gaining both strength and manuscript pages. Sounds like a summer project to me.

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