Hey — I do still exist. I do, still, even write. Just not here, all that much, lately. But! It’s 2018, and I’m going to make more of an effort to publicize the things I do write when I’m not writing here. I’ve been blogging for the CBC’s Parenting pages of late, where some folks seem think I’m against Christmas. And magic. You can read the comments. This week, though, I’m unabashedly against lootbags. Especially the ones with the unsharpened pencils. Have a look, and maybe I’ll pop up again here sooner rather than, say, eight months from now.
A month passed! I thought I would update y’all on my “Chain of Hearts” writing project. I am proud to announce that, in March, I made pretty good progress on my goal (of writing every workday for at least half an hour). There was March break, which accounts for some (completely legit) gaps midmonth. There was March 22, where I’m pretty sure I wrote but forgot to give myself a heart OH WELL. And then as for the 30th and 31st, I just kind of forgot and then had kind of a beyond overwhelming Friday and … no.
So: two, possibly three, workdays where I didn’t write. But: 16 (maybe 17) work days PLUS two bonus weekend days where I did. We will focus on the days where I did, because life is too short to measure it by its failures, in particular when those failures are so massively overshadowed by its successes.
Similarly, I am doing my very best to absolutely ignore the voices in my head that say, “Only half an hour day? Only a hundred words?” YES, ONLY THAT, VOICES. And look what it’s got me: more new writing than I’ve had in the months and months preceding that. Two pieces that, in their slow unfolding, got me thinking and discovering and realizing new things.
(The voices, by the way, are total assholes. In case that wasn't obvious. I am becoming increasingly effective at shoving them out of the way, over in their own corner where they’re harder to hear, while I just plug away at the writing. Or the whatever else.)
I have nearly completed a draft of a new essay. It’s about my father and my stepmother. Ha ha. They know I’m writing it, although they haven’t read it and who knows if they or anyone else ever will — best, I have discovered, when writing personal essays about living family members, to write as though your words will fall into a bottomless pit, never to emerge.
Seriously, they’re cool with it.
I also submitted the essay I wrote in February to two different places. Fingers crossed.
I also submitted a different essay, from the archives, that, if published, I won’t ever tell you about because it will be published anonymously, for all the reasons one might publish an essay anonymously, because my life is that interesting. Seriously, though, I feel a little bad that I won’t be able to tell you about it if it’s published, because it’s kind of funny and possibly elucidating, but also little too excruciatingly personal to publicize.
In March, I also discovered that I did not get the grant that I had applied for to work on a YA novel. And, I have to say, I am a teensy bit relieved, because I think that maybe I didn’t really want write that novel, at least not right now. I mean, I would definitely like to HAVE WRITTEN that novel, but the idea of having to complete it for the end of the year filled me with a fair amount of dread/nausea, and it didn’t feel like the good kind of dread/nausea.
Also? If I decide to write that YA novel, I can write it whenever I damn well please, grant or no. Maybe I will, one day, in half-hour chunks. VOICES.
As for those missed days of writing at the end of March, I decided that I didn’t need to make them up over the weekend. I decided that there was no “making up,” no “behind,” just an ongoing commitment to keep coming back to the page. Besides, over the weekend I needed to quilt. Like a maniac.
And now, here we are in April, and I will hit “publish” on this blog post and then I will give myself a heart for Friday (600+ words!). Have a good weekend.
Have you heard of Jerry Seinfeld’s life hack for writing? The idea is that you get out a paper calendar and a big red marker, and you put an X through each day that you write (or exercise, or refrain from drinking, or clean the cat boxes, or meditate – whatever floats your boat). The idea is simple: don’t break the chain. Regular, incremental effort will lead to real outcomes.
I have written every workday since February 8. By written, I mean not simply personal journalling (that habit is firmly established), and not work for clients, but my own stuff. And, for each day of writing, I have given myself a heart on my lovely paper calendar from the Canadian Cancer Society. I even wrote on one weekend day. I’ve written a complete draft of an essay that I’m quite enamoured of, and I’ve started a second essay. I’m aiming for a minimum of 25 minutes of writing a day, minutes during which the Internet is turned off and the phone is away. Ideally, I put in my time well before noon, before it starts to feel like something I’m avoiding.
So far, so good. My writing practice ebbs and flows. I have looked for hacks and applied them for decades. Sometimes they work, for a while, or not. Right now I’m just focusing on that chain of hearts.