I write because I must, because I love it, because I’ve wanted to since the time I was a kid, barely able to read. I’ve set aside the dream of doing it for years. Too many years. Now that I have allowed myself to pursue my dream, there are days that are just hard. I am lucky to have my three little Muses, Klee, other family members, and friends who encourage me to keep writing. On those days when the writing comes hard, it helps to remember my champions. It also helps to have tokens, prompts, props that encourage me and remind me to write.
Many writers whom I admire have their own prompts, props, reminders; things they keep at their writing space to encourage them, push them, remind them to write when they are distracted or blocked. One of my favorites is Anne Lamott’s one-inch picture frame. In her wonderful book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, she relates the wild ramble of things that go through her mind as she sits stuck. I love the honesty and humanity in her writing. It’s all there, and she can laugh at herself. In her writing we often recognize ourselves and learn to laugh with her. Back to the one-inch picture frame,
Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back.Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994
What I do at this point, as the panic mounts and the jungle drums begin beating and I realize that the well has run dry and that my future is behind me and I’m going to have to get a job only I’m completely unemployable, is to stop. First I try to breathe, because I’m either sitting there panting like a lapdog or I’m unintentionally making slow asthmatic death rattles. So I just sit there for a minute, breathing slowly, quietly. I let my mind wander. After a moment I may notice that I’m trying to decide whether or not I am too old for orthodontia and whether right now would be a good time to make a few calls, and then I start to think about learning to use makeup and how maybe I could find some boyfriend who is not a total and complete fixer-upper and then my life would be totally great and I’d be happy all the time…and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments.
It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.
A common and basic piece of advice writers give on writing is to write. Sometimes that is much easier to say than do. I recently finished a story for a writing contest and find moving forward a bit of a struggle. True, I’ve been writing bits and pieces, working on a longer post, flitting back and forth between stories I’ve started, spinning. I’m not completely and utterly stuck but feel the pull of the doldrums. I thought of Anne Lamott’s one inch picture frame, which led me to my own small collection of things I keep at my writing space.
The first treasure, the one I’ve had the longest is a lovely little African cat carved out of a soft stone. This was a gift at least 30 years ago from my nephew, Stretch. The stone has a lovely shape and temperature, it feels good resting on the palm of my hand. I pick it up, hold it, it gives me a look and I let my mind open to ideas, thoughts, whatever words are there trying to come out. Little stone cat gives me a look that says, now put me down and write it out.
The next treasures are more recent acquisitions that come of living adjacent to a public golf course. We get golf balls. We often collect these as we garden usually noting the make of golf ball. One day I found a “Noodle.” This was a new one on me and my first reaction to “Noodle” was to think of the word in terms of pondering, thinking, mulling things over. I washed off the dirt and brought it in and set it down near little stone cat. It is a reminder to stay seated in my writing space and noodle, ponder, wonder, brainstorm, open to stream of consciousness and do it “outloud.” Noodle on “paper” or virtual paper. I now have a trio: Noodle 0, Noodle 1, and Noodle 3. Curious though, we have yet to find a Noodle 2.
One treasure resides only in my head. Close friends who know how music impacts me will get this. I have a tune I sing to myself with simple repeat lyrics “just keep on writin’, just keep on writin’ just keep on writin'” these to the semi-hip-hop-funk tune of Nightmares on Wax’s “Keep On (86 In It Mix) featuring De La Soul” from their N.O.W Is the Time: Deep Down edition (released in June of 2014 on the Warp label).
The most recent treasure is from a friend. I met her through work, but consider her friend more than former co-worker. She was in our Human Resources department and I frequently said of her that “…she put the “human” back in Human Resources.” It is a lovely handwritten note. I believe it was prompted by my 776 Words post. It is personal so I won’t share the contents or the sender’s name, but when I read it I was deeply moved. It is a note of encouragement and much more. It is one of those notes that bears re-reading. It is pure friendship. It is a reminder why I write.