My husband J and I were sitting on our bed in the dark, our dog snoring on her own little bed a few feet away. I was sitting with my chin on my drawn-up knees and trying to put into words why I’d had such a frustrating day. It was hard, partly because you can’t actually speak too well with your chin on your knees, but also because it’s so difficult to talk about writing, about that vague internal process Doris Lessing always referred to as “wool-gathering.”
One of the only things I was able to put into words was a moment I’d had earlier that day, sitting low on the couch, on the extra-squishy middle cushion. I had an idea for a story. A tiny wee one. It was good. But it was quite complicated. And for that reason I brushed it out of my brain with an old, spiky-bristled broom. And I knew it was a stupid thing to do. When I told J this story, his reaction was, as it always rightly is, “You shouldn’t dismiss your ideas so quickly.” But my problem is – I’ve been doing it for so long! I am an editor by trade and the urge is strong in me. So strong that it could probably be classed as an instinct, like coughing. It happens as I’m writing and even before I’m writing. It’s been happening for years and my brain is a tangled mess of Inner Editor. This is great for my freelancing clients, but not as great for me.
This week, such as it is, I vow to just write anything, even if it sucks. Especially if it sucks. I promise I will not let my inner editor even get out a peep. I might not even care if I spell words wrong!
I’m sad to report that I can no longer remember the story idea I’d had yesterday, though.
2 thoughts on “yesterday was a frustrating writing day”
I was listening to Q this morning and they aired an archived interview with that lady that wrote “Eat Pray Love”. I guess she just published a new book called “Committed” which is all about marriage or whatever–that’s besides the point. Anyway, she said an interesting thing about how creative success can be crippling because of the fear of never measuring up. She said she now looks at creativity the same way that Tom Waits does: He was interviewed for some magazine or something and said that at times when he’s driving or in other situations where a spark of a song comes to his head and he has no way of recording it, of writing anything down, he looks up at the sky and says “If you’re really meant to be a song, could you come back later when I can at least write it down?” (I’m paraphrasing). There is something so freeing and forgiving about that mentality.
I cross out ideas constantly with my art practice. I come up with shit, write it down and then either forget about it completely or somehow manage to talk myself out of it. Even when I’m working on stuff I am in a constant struggle with my inner editor–like I’m continuously justifying my actions so I feel like my ideas/time/effort/work is worth it.
That’s amazing, thank you! If it’s good enough for Tom Waits, it’s good enough for me!
I’m glad you can relate/have methods to break through the inner editor! It’s probably the hardest thing to get over for me. xo