Outgrowing “The Box” Part II of III: Shut Up and Get Busy Already…
Shut Up and Write…. Four words Natalie Goldberg asserts are the anecdote to writer’s block and writer’s blocking.
Natalie writes memoir, but she also writes about writing. My two favorites include her groundbreaking “Writing Down the Bones” and the more recent “Old Friend from Far Away”. Both consist of exercises and essays meant to inspire the writer in all of us from professionals to rank amateurs.
See, I want to be a writer. I’ve said this for about 10 years now. If I’m being totally honest, about 50% of my desire lies in my fantasy of a writer’s lifestyle: lots of coffee, feverish creativity, flexible hours, and pajama bottoms as appropriate “office” attire. My desire to live in comfortable pants fuels a disproportionate percentage of my life goals.
But I also want to be a writer because I simply love to write. This blog fuels that very love. When I write, another part of my personality gets to come out and play. When I write, the veiled privacy gives me free license to express opinions I might otherwise keep in check (see tag entitled “rant”). And when I write I am transcended up and out of my daily list of chores and “to do’s”. Freedom.
OK, so remember two paragraphs ago when I said I’ve wanted to be a writer for about 10 years? I’d say it’s only in the past year or so that I actually began disciplining myself to write most days. Not every day. Most days. Some days or weeks I avoid it altogether. Like me, you might be asking, “Yo, C-dawg (this is my not what my friends actually call me, but in my head I have street cred, so just roll with it), if you want to a be a writer, and you love writing, why don’t you just friggin’ write?”
The simple answer is I don’t know. Writing for me constitutes a form of deep-sea diving. In the morning as my half-pot of coffee percolates, I pace around my computer as though staring into the deep, looking for the perfect place to dive in. Then once the first cup of java has started to hit my veins, I take a deep breath and I jump.
I typically emerge 45 minutes to an hour later, breathing heavily, starved for oxygen. The writing is rarely easy.
I think we all hold inside of us a quiet dream that lies dormant because of the doing it demands. It’s easy to fantasize about an alternate reality, a future yet to be. A few weeks ago I met a student in Minnesota who talked about how much she loves Guatemala, and how envious she is that I get to go there every summer.
“How often do you get down there?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ve never been,” she said. “I’ve just heard a lot about it and I really want to go. I’d like to live there someday.”
Not easily shaken, I asked, “So what’s keeping you from going now? It’s cheap to get there. It’s even in the same time zone as Minnesota, so no jet lag. What gives?”
“Well I’ve planned to go four times, but something has always come up so it didn’t work out.”
I faced her squarely. “You need to buy a ticket. Just buy it. And then the rest of the details will work out because you’ll be committed.”
“Maybe…” she said, trailing off to another topic.
I’m not judging her because I understand all too well what she’s struggling with. We all do it. We have a dream or a wish or a fantasy. We think and we talk and we yearn. But when push comes to shove, something keeps us circling that deep, deep water. We fear the jump into the depths.
I’m a counselor so I can give an educated guess about this student’s hesitation: it’s scary to travel to a developing country alone, especially when you’re only 20 years old. To analyze my own fear proves more difficult. I can’t quite see through my resistance to the other side.
But here’s the lesson if you’re wanting one: Most days I show up. I circle. I dive. I splutter and wring myself out over this keyboard. Most days I resist. And most days I overcome it. It’s taken me 10 years but I’m finally here, doing the thing I’ve claimed to want for so long.
And my hope? If I keep at it, perhaps the resistance will fade into memory.
So let’s turn this bright spotlight on you for a minute.
What’s your dream? What have you talked about for years but not acted on?
And here’s the important part, and I ask you to take it seriously. Right now, grab a pen and a piece of paper…. Now, write one simple thing you can do today to get you started toward fulfilling your dream.
Find a flight. Book a room. Buy a how-to guide. Start a blog. Email that guy and ask him to coffee. Sign up for a guitar lesson. Buy a watercolor set. Take a walk. Think before you speak out of anger. Resist gossip. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a salad…
In other words, Shut Up And Write.