Friday, December 23, 2011

What I Write About When I Write About Writing

My lil doodle

I recently read a rant in the latest issue of this magazine or that, about authors who only come out with one book a decade. The ranter complained that this frequency renders the author replaceable and—eek!—out of touch by the time they are publishing again. He went onto say that there is no shortage of wannabe writers, so if there are authors who can’t handle the (read: measly) pressure of publishing, then maybe it’s time to step aside.

Yeesh! As a wannabe writer who wannabes “Writer” on her epitaph one day (but might never if the writing’s like this), I also considered this argument for myself. Sure I want to be a writer, but what do I really do about it?

Very little.

First, I am exceptionally gifted at reading about writing. My current read in the author memoir genre is “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” Haruki Murakami’s annoyingly-titled but just-like-writer-crack memoir about his highly-disciplined running/writing lifestyle. When I’m reading it, I feel like I’m achieving through osmosis his enviously-productive lifestyle of waking up at 4am, producing 6 hours of uninterrupted writing, and then conducting 2 hours of continuous running. The way he describes deciding to be an author and then completing his first novel a year later was like watching a cloud pass, deciding he’d be a writer, and then sitting down and doing it everyday for a year.

Meanwhile, Murakami’s book for me might as well be What I Read About When I Talk About Writing. I read it and magically I feel like I’m a writer but I am achieving nothing. It’s the author memoir genre, they sell things like Anne Lamott to wannabe writers like me and we get hooked and never do anything with our lives. It’s crack and it’s dangerous and I have to quit!

Interestingly, earlier this fall the Education issue of the New York Times Magazine tracked two NYC schools that were trying to instill a measure of character of their students, and on e of the measurements was dedication and follow-through. “Do you always finish what you start?” I answered no to this question in a moment of truth on a recent job test and was promptly issued an automated rejection.

The answer is no so much so that I forgot I was in the middle of a list.

Second, I am easily distracted and not good at follow-through, so I am achieving very little in my stated quest to be a writer. (‘Plant a tree, have a child, write a book’ has been the condensed form of my bucket list since I can remember. I’ve only done one, and it died. I killed my tree when I couldn’t write my book).

But third and finally. Despite my—and our entire world’s—seeming schizophrenia for projects that require years of dedication, intense concentration, commitment, serious thinking, and problem solving, I have my greatest faith in it. People complain about authors taking 10 years to write a next novel? In my opinion, we need more people dedicating themselves to great artistic achievements that require years of research, immersion, drafting and redrafting in order to produce a proud piece of craft.

Which comes to my New Year Resolution: to have weekly dedication to my writing. Long-term follow-through only happens through weekly dedication. Bird by bird, you write a book, I learned that from Anne Lamott.

I’ll take what the author of that magazine article described as the Woody Allen approach, and produce, produce, produce—even if some of it isn’t good, just to stay dedicated.

I’ll even let it slide every once in a while if my weekly dedication is my blog, where I just write about writing. 

1 comment:

ifnotme said...

reads well !

best of luck with your resolution :)