Sunday, March 18, 2012

Putting the Words to Bed

Recently someone (okay, my shrink if you have to know) asked me "What I do" when I write.

I sort of thought the verb was, you know, self-explanatory but...she just sat there and waited.  And waited.  Seriously- I think this chick would sit in silence for the whole 50 minutes if I let her.  So I felt like I had to answer.

" write.  You know.  I sit at my desk and I throw words on the screen until something sticks."

And she just sat there.  Like she was waiting for more.

Remind me again why I pay for this?

I tried to default to the old "I open up a vein," but she wasn't having it.  Still sat there, like my dog waiting to see if I'm really going to finish that cookie.  So...

Okay.  Here's what happens.  For whatever reason- the blog needs updating, I get a request for a piece, I have an idea that just wot stop nagging- I make the choice to Write.  (This is different from writing, which includes everything from letters to the editor to grocery lists- small, mundane things that take nothing from me) Naively, I start with a sentence or a word and before I know it, there they are- a gaggle of them-  and I have to sort them, one from the other, to see which ones are this piece and which ones are some other piece for some other day.  It's like trying to put toddlers to bed- all the voices and the words and the phrases all clamoring for a spot right next to me.  So I herd them.  One onto this page, another onto a different page, moving them around from place to place on the page, figuring out who can sit with whom and who just won't play nicely no matter how hard I try and who will have to go back into the crib if I really want them to stay put.

There's no place for some of them, which is sad because they really, really want in but...they're not ready yet.  Or maybe they are, but I'm not ready to write the story that they're a part of.  So I nudge them back, tuck them back in, and I go back to sorting the ones that belong here.

I guess it's mostly like trying to run a really, really crazy orphanage.  Or maybe it's like bedtime at the Duggars.  I don't know, but it's exhausting.

So I can't do it every day.  I'm not one of those disciplined 'write for an hour every day no matter what' writers because it's too damn hard.  I wouldn't be functional.  I can't manage all those loud, needy word orphans and also manage my loud, needy family.  It's not about commitment  or discipline or passion.  It's about getting just a little too close to the edge of the dock and finding myself plunging into deep water, floundering to find my way back to the surface before I drown.  I'm over my head but the only way out is through so...I...keep going.  I wrestle and I bitch and I look like I've gone 20 rounds with Buffy and I ask myself why in the hell I ever thought this writing thing was a good idea.  I'm miserable and mean and distracted.  I let dishes and e-mail pile up.  The dog moans from her spot by the door, begging to go out, but she's out of luck.  I'm up to my neck in unruly literary children and I cannot stop until everyone is bedded down or they'll overrun my mind, turning over the furniture in my brain until the mess is too big to clean up and I'm forced to move us all to Australia or Nova Scotia before DCFS comes to take them away.

Then, suddenly, it's done. It's "like silk off a spool," all smooth and pretty and it says just what I want it to say.  The right words in the right spots, creating just the right...everything.  I take a deep breath. They're calm and in their beds and sleeping and I look in on them, angelic in the glow of the post-copy-editing nightlight, and I love them.  I want more of them.  I forget the flailing and the herding and I just want to do it again.

 So, badass or not...that's what I do when I write.  I put all the hyperactive, badly behaved, out of control words to bed.

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