When I sit down to write, I immediately procrastinate. I start thinking about lists. I put my hair in a pony tail. I take my watch off. If I'm even the slightest bit hungry, like tonight, I'll peruse the cabinets and the fridge, nibbling on bittersweet chocolate, fresh blueberries, lemonade. I'll read the paper, circling workshops I'd like to attend (on writing, of course!), bluegrass concerts in the park, mommy-and-me yoga classes, and rock climbing refresher clinics. I'll watch my marmalade and cream cat slink through her kitty door and sip water from her bowl, flicking at the water's surface with a paw before drinking. I'll talk to my husband about the Tour results, about my girlfriend, who's breaking up with her boyfriend, and about plans for tomorrow. And soon, 10, 15, 20 minutes have passed. Usually during this time I'll think of at least eight things I should google; I'll upload pictures to my family's web page; I'll instant message with my sister. When did I become this internally fragmented chatterbox? Running along the waterfront today with Bean in his stroller, I got to thinking about how self discipline and practice are the vital ingredients to success as a writer and an athlete, both. Like doing sit ups (which are ALWAYS easier to think about than to do) writing well requires tremendous self-discipline. Yet if I write daily, it gets easier, until I've acquired a certain amount of momentum, like good karma, that keeps me moving forward faster and more accurately towards my goal. That's partly why I started this blog. Good karma in the writing department. I need all I can get because I have some stories I need to write. Words haunt me, and I keep coming back to them over and over again like an addict. I realize I have put a great deal of passion and hope into the promise of words. Reading a well-crafted story makes me acknowledge that words author our perception of the world. Stories, the stories we all have to tell, shape our culture, and in turn our future.
So it is with some urgency and anxiety that I buck up against myself nightly---wanting to write, yet feeling incapable of doing so for a lack of internal discipline. I resent the babble of my mind:the easy slope of distractions. Yet, each day I must begin again. Sit down. Write. Keep writing. Until something happens. Until I reach the well water I'm looking for and the words show up: the right words, to tell some of the stories I've been needing to tell.
One hard piece I've been working on is about my father dying from pancreatic cancer three July's ago. But each time I sink my teeth into it I'm totally overwhelmed.
My life is full. Since he died, I've bought a house, gotten married, had a baby, quit my job and moved to a new city. Each day feels full with small details: dishes, bread, newspaper, basil plants, cats, hugs, phone calls. Three years ago, in July after my father died I took long walks on the little beach by my tiny house and thought about how I wanted to put down roots and really settle into the present. Then, my notebooks were full of substance and pigment and ideal. I wrote poetry daily. Yet I felt somehow ripped away from myself: as though I were the skin of an apple peeled from it's core.
So I bought a house with my then-boyfriend, now husband, and started planting tomatoes and sunflowers. Together my husband and I laid new floors and re-tiled the counter tops. We re-wired ever outlet, and took down a wall. And during that time I felt connected to a different aspect of my father---the side of him that was practical and grounded. I've spent countless hours of my life with him on projects. I learned how to use a chain saw and a table saw from him. I did my only stint with a jackhammer under his supervision, rewire outlets, plaster drywall, cut grass, kill rattlesnakes.
But sometime after our house was finished, I stopped feeling close to my father in that grounded way. And except for the occasional time when a pipe would burst in our basement, or an appliance would break, and I'd find myself talking to my dad in my head, asking for problem solving advice, my life has been so full of other things that I've been somewhat terrified and hesitant to go back to the story of his dying that I've been writing over and over again. It's time now though, I know it in my bones. This move signifies a huge psychological shift for me: its all new terrain from here on out. And it's up to me to learn to back stitch. To retrace the thread to where I left off and pick it up; to carry my memories of him into the present, so I can start finding my voice again. So I can start discovering what other stories I have to tell.