Writing About Not Writing.

I have always considered myself a writer. My friends and family and teachers always considered me a writer. “Oh, she’s so talented,” they’d say. It was just this thing. Like being right-handed or having curly hair. So, in times like now, I am gripped by a kind of existential angst, because I’m not writing.

I’m really not writing. I kept thinking, “I’ve got to start a project” all this month, and then not starting it. To be fair, I have been doing other things that take up my energy, but if I’d wanted to write, I would have been writing.  Prolifically.

So what if I’m not a writer? What am I, then? A teacher, an artist, a baker, a cook, a gardener? A girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend? A crossword doer, a reader, a photographer? No one ever gave me expectations about being those. Not like being a writer.

There’s a little part of me that worries I’ve used up all my writing juice. “That’s it, you’re done with writing,” it says. “Now you’ve got lots of other things to do, but not writing.”

I don’t know what’s happening with this not-writing thing, but I feel like I’m a woodbug that’s been exposed from under a rock: No idea where to go and I can’t see the bigger picture enough to make a plan.

10 Comments to “Writing About Not Writing.”

  1. By Duncan, April 30, 2009 @ 11:07 am

    Just write every day. And tell the bigger picture, the one-day project, the writer that you want to be, and all of those people’s expectations of you to go jump in the freaking lake. They have nothing to do with you. They’re imaginary and they are not your friends.

    A famous writer was once asked “Do you ever get writer’s block?” and she replied “Oh my yes! At least two or three times a day.” I think of that when I feel like you’re feeling.

  2. By Stephanie, April 30, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

    Here’s the story about writing. There will be days where I don’t write. By days, I mean days. Like, three or four days. Maybe I’ll post a paragraph on the blog or send an email, but I’m not writing-writing. I do consider blogging my daily writing excercise, but only if the post is substantial and/or opens something up for me.

    A teacher doesn’t teach every day and a cowbody doesn’t spend 24/7 at a rodeo. There’s downtime.

    Physically writing is part of being a writer, of course. It’s a big part. A big, big part. However, I think writing is inherent. I think the passion to write and the drive to write are the back-up band.

    For me, when it comes to writing, I have a set of guidelines I follow and I know the direction I’m going, but that doesn’t mean I have a grand plan. My writing goals change about once a year.

    There are certain days where I kind of hate writing.

  3. By Stephanie, April 30, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

    PS - I spend a lot of time writing about not writing. It helps.

  4. By Derek K. Miller, April 30, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

    This blog looks like writing to me. Mine is by far the biggest writing project I’ve ever had, nine years old and hundreds of thousands of words long. Sure, it might not get you paid, but it counts.

  5. By Liz, April 30, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

    Thank you, all of you. Duncan, that’s a good quotation. Stephanie, you’re right; there’s downtime. Plus, I have to go and do the stuff that actually gets me paid. Derek, you’re right. It’s writing, even if it’s not a paid gig.

  6. By cheesefairy, May 1, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    You can’t write about nothing. At least 50% of writing is observing & thinking. I just made that up. It might not be true. But if all you do is write all the time eventually you eat your own tail.

    However I do know how you feel and it sucks and all the “oh you’re just priming the pump / gathering information!” pep talkery is small comfort so.

  7. By Arwen, May 1, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

    I agree with cheesefairy because sometimes, like the moon, you have to go New.

  8. By Mr. Arwen's Husband, May 2, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

    People who fly have a different view of the world than those who spend their lives on the ground. A very wise man once wrote a poem while he was flying, and he called this poem “The God’s Eye View,” and he said that this view was entirely different than the view he always had on the ground, which he called “The Bug’s Eye View.”

    Out there, somewhere, in the air we fly through, exists an old Persian legend much like this poem about a bug who spent his entire life in the world’s most beautifully designed Persian rug. All the bug ever saw in his lifetime were his problems. They stood up all around him. He couldn’t see over the top of them, and he had to fight his way through these tufts of wool in the rug to find the crumbs that people had spilled on the rug. And the tragedy of the story of the bug in the rug was this: that he lived and he died in the world’s most beautifully designed rug, but he never once knew that he spent his life inside something which had a pattern. Even if he, this bug, had even once gotten above the rug so that he could have seen all of it, he would have discovered something – that the very things he called his problems were a part of the pattern.

    Have you ever felt like that bug in the rug? That you are so surrounded by your problems that you can’t see any pattern to the world in which you live? Have you heard anybody say lately that the world is a total mess? That, my friends, is the Bug’s Eye View, and seeing only a little of the world, me might be inclined to think that this is true.

  9. By Liz, May 2, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    Cheesefairy, my big fear is that I’m priming the pump for nothing. Arwen, maybe I am going New. John, the rug isn’t the problem. Circumstances aren’t a problem. I’m afraid I might be the problem.

  10. By Arwen, May 3, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    Well, there’s no NEED to write, y’know. It’s not THE THING. It’s for when you want to, and it’s the thing you want to do rather than other things you want to do.

    And your blog counts!

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