Writing/not writing

Thursday, August 01, 2019
One of my goals this year has been to speak about the writing process and read my own work outside the classroom in order to promote my book. I wrote recently about my own shortcomings in that respect, but to be honest, it's getting better. (I know, I teach speech, what can I say, I'm like everyone else and get nervous when I have to speak in a new situation!) So, the interconnectedness of all things is really quite mind-blowing when you begin to pay attention to the universe and what it gives you, because I was reading through an old journal this evening and found these words from 2016:

I flipped through May Sarton's Journal of Solitude and because the page just opened there, I saw these lines written after one of her public readings.

At least it was not a disaster - but I felt (perhaps I am wrong) that the kind, intelligent people gathered in a big room looking out on pine trees did not really want to talk about God, His absence (many of the poems speak of that) or His presence, both are too frightening.

That phrase really spoke to me, "Both are too frightening." Not to compare writing directly to anyone's God, but, because a writer is acting as a god of the world he or she creates, it does make sense. For many of us, the fear of writing and not writing is too frightening. The fear of speaking and not speaking is too frightening. The fear of creating and not creating is too frightening.

It's no wonder many artists drive themselves crazy (literally and figuratively) trying to write, speak, or create. We can't not do it, but sometimes believe we can't do it, either. So, there we are, stuck somewhere between the two options in writing purgatory, waiting for something to happen while punishing ourselves for staying there. We wait for the mood to strike, for the perfect first line, for the right time in life (kids in school, less job stress, kids out of the house, etc.), or the muse to tap you on your head because you've waited patiently and now it's "your turn."

I've used every one of these excuses, and I'm finished waiting. If I can do only one thing to help my writer friends, it's to tell them not to wait for the perfect time, mood, or muse. The secret to creating any art is knowing that it's not an invitational. You can't invite your muse to show up before you begin to write. You conjure the muse when you begin writing. And either way, it's still frightening.

Mary Horner has waited more than long enough for "her turn" with the writing muse, and is still frightened by the idea of writing and not writing, but writes anyway.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--What have I missed? What is your book? If it's not out yet, what is it about? If it is out, who not provide a link to it?

I'm curious and interested.

I can speak in front of groups--it's easy for me (I went through the sweaty and nervous stage decades ago), but the promoting and technology side of it is the tough part for me. (For example, I'm beginning a website. THAT makes me sweat in frustration. ;)

Like you, like most writers, I'm full of excuses. Sometimes I win. Sometimes procrastination wins.

Let me know about the book...

Joanne said...

Brilliant post, Mary! And like Sioux...what is your book?

Connie Koehler said...

Hi Mary, thank you for sharing this. You are right to say that your muse shows up when you write. At least it does for me. At times, it shows up when I'm on may way to my wonderful world of dreamland. I have to get my pen and paper to write things down before I fall asleep or I'll forget it all! My muse has a mind of its own, (WINK----> ;) and will show up anywhere at any time. It happens to show up when I'm driving, and I can't drive while writing, or vice versa. Ha! Ha! Therefore, I rehearse it (over an over) until I park and can write it down.

And yes, for me, sometimes procrastination comes in the disguise of excuses--I have to do this, gotta do that, busy over here, running over there. However, although many of these excuses are legit, I added to my excuses. Writing is my excuse for not doing my chores like sweeping the accumulation of sand up off the floor. Ha! Ha! I am a novice at writing in many areas, but I still love it. I have always liked to write even though I am afraid that some things might sound stupid or full of nonsense. This doesn't stop me from writing. However, I am afraid of public speaking, but I still speak if I agreed to do it. No matter how scary it is for me, I do not back out.

It never fails. Every time I am about to speak to the public, my nerves are on the edge of their seats about ready to take off, and my body heats up like an inferno causing my body to sweat, profusely. The first few minutes are the worst, right before I get up in front of everyone, before I open my mouth, and for the first few minutes. It subsides after that and I begin to feel comfortable. I am so glad this doesn't happen to me when I write. If it did, I would not do much of it.

I am also curious to the name of your book that you mention. Thank you, again, Mary.


Mary Horner said...

Thanks for commenting on my post, Sioux and Joanne! It's my old book, Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing. I'm going to try to get the rights back, there are issues, so haven't been promoting it because the publisher gets any money from Amazon sales, etc. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Connie Koehler said...

For some reason I cannot see my post. I am going to get in touch with WOW! and find out why my posts are not showing up. Good luck to you, Mary.

Nila said...

This is a great post, and exactly what I needed to hear! I'm glad that you posted this perspective, it's something we could all stand to be reminded of sometimes.

Mary Horner said...

I see your comments now, Connie, and thank you so much. You are in good company with the nerves when speaking in public, and one thing that helps me get over those first few moments is to have an attention-getter that allows me a moment to catch my breath, etc., by showing a video clip, asking a question, playing pertinent music, etc. Just knowing I may be uncomfortable for a couple of minutes helps me keep going. It's wonderful that you don't let it stop you! So many people run away from that discomfort. Thank you so much for your comments, and good luck with your writing! I, too, have had thoughts and lines come to me when I can't write it down and I repeat it over and over in my head so I don't forget.

And Nila, thank you for your kind words! I really appreciate your taking the time to comment.

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