Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015. Throughout December,Sarah, Kat and I will post each day with a new prompt. Join us by writing, or join us by reading. Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.
On Writing | Chances are, if you’re participating in #reverb it’s because you like writing. Or at least want to like writing. Writing is like a muscle. Use it or lose it. What do you do every day to hone your craft? Or, what would you like to do each day to contribute to your writing?
True story: I used to be a better writer than I am now.
I used to be incredibly diligent, and I used to have so much to say. I practiced my craft like I was training for the Winter Olympics of writing. I wrote in various forms every day: I blogged; I penned short fiction; I drafted essays; I worked on a novel; occasionally, I wrote the odd poem.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had to throw away bed sheets because they would get stained by the pens that leaked in the night when I would fall asleep writing.
And I swore up and down that I’d never be that boring kind of Grown Up whose writing got choked up with such quotidian matters as Whether the Dishes Were Done, and Cholesterol Levels, and Interest Rates. I was still swearing this into my late twenties.
And then I woke up one day in my thirties and Everything Had Changed. Suddenly, I had a partner I wanted to interact with and with whom I could share actual, complex thoughts and feelings, where writing had always been my outlet for that. And suddenly, my dog, and my partner, and my friends, and my job all needed my attention and the sliver of time I had set aside to concentrate on writing and editing seemed to evaporate.
Or, I let it evaporate.
I’m going through a phase — the first in my life — where writing feels like a bit of a chore.
So now you’d be hard-pressed to find pen-stained sheets in my linen closet.
Like many other writers, I’ve long been struck by Anne Lamott’s advice that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor and that one needs to start with a shitty first draft. Basically, one needs to feel free to suck a little bit, because that’s where the creative stuff is just starting to get good.
But for the past few years, my job has been such that there’s no room to be wrong; there’s no room to suck. Everything needs to be precise; correct; and this whole issue of having a small-to-nonexistent margin of error makes it hard to Shut It Off and give myself room for the essential Shitty First Draft.
In other words, it’s hard to be a writer when, for 60+ hours of each week, you have to be an executive.
But I’m trying.
One thing I think a lot of writers fail to do is…read. So I’m still a reader — I read stories; long-form non-fiction; plays; poetry; novels; biographies. I look for good writing, not necessarily subject matter that grabs me, because a good writer can turn dull subject matter into gold.
And I keep journaling. Even though I don’t blog as much as I used to, I’ve kept a journal for 20+ years, and I test out form and format, as well as jot down ideas all the time. While I don’t have time to do long-form drafting and editing the way I used to, I still do the sort of short-form outlining I might’ve done three or four years ago.
In other words, life changes. Writing evolves. I suppose part of the process of being A Writer is evolving with it. Sometimes that feels weird and uncomfortable when my process has always been One Way. But in an era when everything else is changing…Why not be open to this new way?