1. Having written something worth looking at again.
2. Having completed a revision that makes a poem almost finished.
3. Talking about writing.
5. Going to literary events like book signings and poetry readings.
6. Thinking about writing.
Things I Don’t Like Doing As a Student:
I thought I might be sort of the special case here, but this is true for me. I like having written. I like bringing a piece to class that I’m proud of – even if it will soon be reduced to lots of crossed out words and revision suggestions. I like being inspired by published writers and talking with my writer friends about the great things we’re going to write. I like this stuff.
But you cannot fathom the myriad ways I can avoid actually writing during my assigned time. Anne Lamott is a sweetheart to tweet about it herself. Very often her morning messages are some version of “butt in chair.”
Without fail, I put off writing until it cannot be put off any longer (as in, hours before deadlines). This is why I felt like I had to be a true student if I was going to become a better writer. Otherwise I just think or talk about writing, I don’t actually write.
I recognized (again) this unfortunate little trait in my daughter just yesterday. It was her semi-annual (or quarterly, perhaps?) tearful visit with me about why she thinks she should quit piano lessons (more on that here). And I lectured her and planned strategies with her and spoke life into her destiny as a musician, but what really made the difference was when I said, “You know, Ada, I’m the same way. I just hate practicing. But I love having practiced. It’s just the way it is.”
My mom calls it “disciplining your art” and it’s true even as much as it hurts. I am certain I would never have pursued poetry if I hadn’t had the opportunity to be “forced” into writing some poems and liking them. Also, it is true that when I actually do make myself write, I like the process. I like the words and how they arrange themselves into ideas and then how new ideas pop up from the words I thought were going to say something entirely different. It’s just so hard to do that. (I mean, the latest Downton Abbey is very likely available for streaming online at this very moment!)
Here’s to the Sisterhood of the Reluctant Practicers:
May our wills be shaped according to the means necessary to attain our desired ends.
May our spirits be encouraged even in our bondage.
May the fruits of our labor today be tasty enough to get us back in the chair again tomorrow!
Maybe what really helps is knowing we’re not alone. Thanks, Ms. Lamott.
*I should note that when pressed Ada is not actually interested in quitting piano. She wants to be a great piano player. She’s just interested in it being easier. She’s looking for a way to become great that doesn’t involve practicing five days a week. And, aren’t we all?