Last week, while lounging about in at-the-coast spring break mode I decided that, upon returning home, I would write every weekday morning from five to seven a.m. (Is it redundant to use “a.m.” and “morning?” in the same sentence? Sorry.) I recently enrolled in a writing class and knew that, though my kids are in school all morning, this was the only way I would get the work done. Laundry, errands, and all kindsa other stuff distract me during the short hours they’re gone, and by the end of it I’m frustrated that I didn’t get much writing done and, somehow, didn’t get much housework done either. (What am I getting done? Still don’t know.) So early mornings it would be. Starting Monday. And when five o’clock on Monday morning came, it was actually pretty awesome.
We’d gotten home the night before from a long weekend at the coast and, in a crazy burst of springtime energy, I stayed up late scrubbing bathrooms, doing laundry, and getting organized for the week. I went to bed at midnight happy to be home and excited about the week ahead, then woke before my alarm the next morning, a rarin’ to write. I put in a productive couple of hours at the keyboard then sailed through the rest of my day, content with what I’d accomplished and glad I’d risen early to do it–especially since a few hours later the battery died in my van and I spent the afternoon sitting at Les Schwab. (Do you see what I mean by distraction? The Universe is out to get me. I swear to you it is.) I fell asleep that night looking forward to another productive burst the following day; I was actually looking forward to rising early and giving it another go. Because Monday was awesome. On Monday, I loved writing.
Then came Tuesday. I woke this morning at 4:45, hit snooze once, then got up, kindasorta rarin’ to go. Though I’d slept well, I felt groggier than I had on Monday, but I brushed my teeth, splashed cold water on my face, and headed to the computer. I then proceeded to sit in front of said computer in a stupefied confusion for the next ninety minutes. I could not type one word in front of another. After twenty minutes of foghead, I finally downshifted to tweaking some old essays that I’m hoping to repurpose someday. At 6:30 I gave up and crawled back into bed with the Hub. Would you believe me if I told you that, at this point, I was almost in tears? Not because I couldn’t write anything (I’m used to that), but because I’d just wasted so much time. Precious, irreplaceable, five o’clock in the morning time! I could have slept longer. I could have ran eight miles (ish.) I could have folded the big ‘ol pile of laundry looming on our family room couch. I could have meditated. (If I knew how to meditate. Pointers?) Anything I’d done would have been more useful than staring at the computer screen, trying to write and writing nothing at all. Any time spent doing something else would have been better than the time I’d wasted doing nothing at all. Right?
After my blind and balding ninety minutes, I was mad at Writing. I was mad that it was so hard, and slow, and required such a nearly painful effort from me. I was mad that I wasn’t better at it. I was mad that its long hours produced so little; that they didn’t make me any money, make make me any thinner, make my house any cuter. And I was mad that, in spite of this futility, I was still driven to do it. Why couldn’t I be driven to do something else? Anything would be more fun than writing; anything would yield better results. Yet there I was, a pig to its slop, unable to leave it alone.
Sun poured through the blinds and spilled across the bed, lighting up the room while my mood grew dark. I rolled over and thought the same thing I think every couple of days: “I’m giving up writing. For good. It’s a complete waste of my time.” Resolved, I got up, got the kids to school, and went for a run. And while I was running, all I could think about was how mad I was at Writing. How much I hated it. How it obviously hated me. I wrestled with Writing as I pounded the pavement; I berated it and beat it up, wrung it out and hung it to dry. I’m finished with you–forever! (I may have yelled this out loud to passing cars. I can’t be sure.) The battle raged on for forty minutes, but by the time I came home, fell through the front door and kicked off my shoes, it was over. I was tired. And Writing had won.
Because here I sit, humbled and silenced, in front of that blank screen I’d sworn off this morning. Here I sit, driven to communicate, driven to articulate, driven to understand–regardless of impressive results or the lack thereof. (It is usually the lack thereof.) (It is always the lack thereof.) Here I sit, punching letters on a keyboard to bring life to my ideas and structure to my thoughts. Here I sit, exploring and explaining, condemning and excusing, listening and learning. Here I sit, surprised to discover that no time was wasted in this very chair this very morning. Because had I not spent that ninety minutes hating Writing, I wouldn’t be spending this ninety minutes loving it. Had I not spent that ninety minutes producing nothing, I would have had to spend this ninety minutes producing nothing. At some point, Nothing must be produced, it’s just part of the deal. No writer is afforded the luxury of constant flow. The vapid time needs to be spent–demands to be spent–and I’m glad that I spent it early in the day.
This morning, that awful blank screen taught me something: Time spent flailing and failing–with writing or anything else—is never wasted time. It’s just the dead time between point A and point B, and it requires nothing of us but endurance. Sometimes things need to clog up so we can savor the rush of unclogging them. So though I was mad at Writing all morning, I was also thinking about Writing all morning. Which tells me that, like an unrequited love that often does me wrong, I’m still not ready to let it go.
When you find yourself stuck–on writing, or drawing, or photo-shopping, or child-rearing, or painting that ridiculously high-ceilinged hallway–don’t give up. Get mad at it, get sad about it, get in a fight with it—and then get back to it. Put in the vapid time. Because once the pouting and disappointment are out of the house, there’s room for the creativity to come back in.
Whoa. This train of thought has taken a surprisingly dramatic turn. Maybe I’ll just keep it in my journal, to save myself the embarrassment. Or maybe I’ll post it on my blog, to relish in the embarrassment. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I sat down in front of that blank screen and I tried, again. What matters is that I wrote it.