I know I should. But…
Honestly. Truly. I am really, really trying to behave.
With my current work-in-progress, I mean. Hah. Had you going there for a minute, didn’t I?
Seriously, though. All professional writers know the drill. We’ve read the best books on the subject, books like Anne Lamott’s amazing, true and inspirational, Bird by Bird and Julia Cameron’s fabulous The Artist’s Way and just about anything by Natalie Goldberg
The drill is simply this: Show up. Get to the page every day, make page goals. Hit them—hmm. That sounds rather violent—well, and then, you know what? Writing, in its own way, is violent, on occasion. There’s a lot of digging that goes on, hitting the vein, watching the blood spurt and all that, going places within that sometimes aren’t pretty. Because there’s no getting around it. If you’re writing something you hope someone will put down their hard cash to read, you’ve got to deliver, baby. And all the clichés are absolutely true on this whole delivery thing. You may groan when someone tells you, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Groan all you freaking want. You better be crying when you write that reconciliation scene. You’d better be taking a page from Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, sobbing your heart out, buried in wet tissues, moaning, “God, that’s good…”
And am I carrying the whole “writing as a violent activity” a bit far? Okay, okay.
I’ll try again. Make page goals. Achieve them. Yes, much better…
And really, what was my original point?
Wait. I remember…
Funny, but behaving—in the writerly sense, as defined above—used to be easy for me. When I was starting out as a writer, I behaved as a matter of course. I didn’t have all day to write. It wasn’t my actual job or anything, so when I came to the page, it was glorious, naughty, exciting, stolen time.
And even for the first few years after I began to support myself with my writing, it was all just one big miracle to me: That I got paid for the writing, which meant I could write more, because I didn’t have to spend eight hours a day slaving away at some day job just to eat and make the rent.
But slowly, over the years, my sense of the naughtiness, the lovely, amazing stolenness of my work has…eroded? Degraded?
Whatever. Now, well, you know, it’s my job. And it’s become so tempting to find clever ways to make it naughty again.
This is the true scariness of the human mind. Well, at least my mind, which is a place only I go and everyone is happy about that. Just ask my family…
So. Clever ways to be naughty. Oh, like for instance, not showing up at the page for a few days. And then freaking out when I get there and realize no veins have been opened recently. I have to start at the beginning and build my story, my world, my characters’ reality. It’s very exciting, in a very emotionally violent way.
And, honestly, it is not a good idea. It is not the way to go.
So here I am on my current project, and I have, honestly and truly, been behaving. Not just trying. Actually behaving. I show up daily, I achieve my page goals.
And you know what? I feel…really good about that.
Though naughtiness does tempt me. And I’ve decided that’s good. I need to be naughty right there on the page. I need to always remember the miracle that is this job.
I guess I always secretly believed it would get easier. It just doesn’t.
All of which, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron could have told me. And did.
How about you? What are your clever ways to be naughty and not show up for work? Come on. Whether you’re a writer or not, I know that you know ways you are naughty.
And whether you're behaving or not, here's to the best summer ever--and a whole lot of wonderful summer reading for everyone!