A lot of the tools I give to my students to make their writing easier and better are things I have integrated into my own writing and life so much I don’t really have to think about it.
Yet: I still have totally crazy horrible resistance-to-the-writing days. Monster days.
It reminds me of how a friend describes babysitting his two-year-old diaper-creative niece:
“Imagine Jackson Pollock. But with feces as the medium.”
Anybody else have THOSE kind of Jackson Pollock writing days? 🙂
What I Actually Do When I Need Writing 911:
So there are some things I do when the shit hits the fan. Or I should probably say, when I start spewing the shit. Or whatever the hell is going on.
One of them is to call Emberly, who is like my Bad Writing Day angel, who is a writer as well and one I trust and one who has been through it with me from the beginning and who has way more faith in me than I have in myself. This happens maybe once a month.
That’s when I’m sitting at the desk and already everything is awful and there’s no space to move, no faith in myself, no “just write” because I have completely lost confidence and direction.
This hell-pit usually has to do with feeling like if I just launch into writing something, it will be the wrong path and I will add more confusion and exhaustion.
The other thought that often occurs to me at this horrible desk moment is to eat some sugar, and if it is REALLY bad, to drink some bourbon. (Bourbon!)
The sugar I usually resist and the bourbon is thankfully just too complicated to locate out in the sticks where I live.
Avoiding the Sh*t Storm from the Start
The whole thing is: I can usually avoid these days completely. I have no idea HOW it works, but there is this five minute thing I can do that somehow keeps me out of the scary shit-spewing areas of my brain for the rest of the day, and that thing is this:
I wish there was a better word for it. I will work on that. Because honestly the second someone wants to have a conversation with me about meditation, I start wondering what’s on Bravo.
The truth is this: the whole zen, calm, eastern religion, yoga-talk vibe usually leaves me craving some very loud Zeppelin, or say, some early, ridiculous, obnoxious Beastie Boys. Loud.
Unless the zen thing involves one of those $300 massages where they pour buckets of pure rose oil all over you. That variety of woo-woo-soft-speak-love-love I can totally handle.
But without the rose oil, with just the meditation-speak, which tends to feel to me like: “now everybody be very calm and quiet and never admit to having ever even thought about being anything less than totally compassionate,” oh god, just give me a xanax already.
I’m not proud of my innate cranky dubiousness. But it is part of me that has saved me many times over. And it also is just part of NYC that lives in me, so I’m not going to “work” on it or anything.
Just notice it, I guess.
Less Fat and Less Clingy
Over the years, however, I have somehow come around, through trial and error, to know this:
If I can get myself there to meditate for five minutes, the day is a lot better.
I am less anxious. I somehow don’t avoid my desk. I don’t want to eat too much. I don’t freak out if somebody doesn’t call me back. I don’t want to stay up later than my bedtime.
Going to bed at 10pm seems like a great idea on days when I’ve meditated.
I don’t know exactly how it works. Because honestly I am so half-assed about it, and so not in a zen deep peace space when I try pathetically to focus on my breath for five minutes.
I have no idea how this sad effort works.
But I know it works.
If You Can Call It Meditation
It is so barely meditation, this thing I do in the mornings. Most of the time I am sitting there totally obsessing over this or that, for like three minutes of it, then I will remember the point is not to obsess and I manage to focus on my breath again.
So there is probably about 30-45 seconds of actual peace zen-ness going on in what every morning seems like my little charade.
Because probably by the start of Minute Four I am obsessing again.
But somehow, that 30-45 seconds is the magic potion.
I used to think that I had to do it for twenty minutes. And some days I do meditate for twenty minutes. But really in the dash to get to my day, if I can get there for five minutes and let the other cards fall where they may, the whole day improves.
It doesn’t seem like it is going to improve, still, at 8:15 am when I need to be out the door. It seems like this is a pain in the ass that is slowing me down. But I just know from trial and error, if I don’t get to my little chair where I meditate, the monsters, the shit spewing, will have the best of me well before noon.
And I just hate that monster overload so much these days, I usually actually just DO it, just sit there and totally fail, for 4.5 out of 5 minutes, to zen out. That failure is somehow magic.
It’s hum-drum, everyday, mundane, non-exciting. And of course, because of that, it’s somehow my answer.