Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

Ever try to make yourself do something you're not good at and then struggle through the process until you wonder what the hell made you want to do it in the first place? I took a Pilates class recently that sent me fleeing for the comfort of my old Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons video tapes.

I guess I do the hard new stuff to push myself, which leads to me the next question: is it worth it? Would I be a better human being if I mastered Pilates instead of The Jane Fonda Workout? I don't know.

For the past six months I've been working on a blog project that started off as a comic book idea, turned into a therapeutic exorcism and has recently left me feeling like a passenger in a vehicle driven by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every weekday I sit down at the computer for at least two hours and force myself to write something, anything. Did I forget to mention that I'm not a writer? I'm not even much of a journalist. If it wasn't for my husband's incessant nagging, telling me "Write something for your blog!" and guilting: "You should be writing instead of wasting your time on Facebook, or MySpace." (Funny how he hadn't listed his marital status on Facebook until I joined.)

I struggle to pull out my story from its age old hiding place where it's been covered with piles and piles of newer and fresher memories, innocuous memories that cover the old ones. But they are like the undead, those old memories and if you poke around they come to life, jump into the driver's seat and beckon, "Hop in!" When an old memory takes me for a ride it always takes unexpected turns; sometimes it's a fun ride, other times the ride is sad and painful.

But I'm getting ahead of myself because there are plenty of times when I feel like a pedestrian trying to hail a cab on a busy city street and I can't find a driver. It's then that the two hours in front of the computer turn into anxious tea and coffee guzzling. I start to type, then delete; start to type, then delete. I have to imagine myself as an old prospector, patiently filling my little tin pan with sandy water, swishing and swishing, hoping for a little gold dust. It's time consuming and not always fruitful but I do it anyway.

I write something every weekday when my kid leaves for school. I've learned that by allowing my memories to drive me instead of trying to remember specific events, what is meaningful and memorable to me eventually comes to the surface but it's not always fun, more often it's work, much like exercising when I'd rather be painting, or sewing, or playing music. I just don’t enjoy the process of writing in the same way I enjoy making music or painting, which are a joy by comparison. It's at those times that a little outside motivation really helps. Seeing that I have blog followers makes me feel like I owe it to them not to cop out. Getting comments from readers is huge. A reader recently wrote that they'd spent four hours reading my Violence Girl blog from the beginning (not an easy task since the blog format forces you to read from the last entry to the first) and the idea that someone who doesn't know me would take that much time out of their busy day to read about my life just floored me.

So I write, grudgingly, with clumsy fingers and awkward phrases and no idea where I'm going with my story, but I write.


Loves Pickles said...

Hello Alice :)
I've read your blog for a couple of years now, and absolutely delight in your writing style and skill. I adore blog-reading, and as much as I crave new material from all of the blogs I read, I find that if someone is writing out of pressure to please or entertain their readers instead of from that gutteral place that drives a writers hand, it IS work, and it becomes less than what was perhaps intended. I feel that kind of pressure when I'm working on my projects sometimes, and if I'm trying to force it, then nothing works and it doesn't seem as enjoyable at all. But if I just let myself "go with the flow", let the mood guide me, it seems to be a much better thing, it seems to feed my soul instead of deplete it. Sometimes, unfortunately, that means that I don't pick up a project for months, but that's my own challenge that I continually try to work through. How to fit time in for stuff that feeds me without feeling like it's a chore? Sometimes all I have the energy to do is be a zombie in front of Facebook and Myspace. But instead of making myself feel guilty for it (as I think we all do since they can be addictive), I try to think of it as filling that part of me that perhaps needs to be cyberly-social, that needs to veg out while knowing there are others out there who are feeling the same way. Yes, sometimes we all need a kick in the pants, but similarly, sometimes a thing isn't worth doing if our heart isn't truly in it. The older I get, the more often I find myself asking, "Is this filling me, or draining me?" and if it's the latter, I stop doing it for the time being. Life is too short to feel guilty or like what we're doing isn't worthwhile.

Webmaster said...

Editor's note to Alice: Permission to veg out and play on Myspace is NOT granted. You have an assignment to complete this novel and I have to keep you on task. No wimping out!

Alice Bag said...

Dear Loves Pickles,

Thank you for your kind comments and for encouraging me to take the occasional day off. It may seem strange that despite the fact that I've been blogging since 2005, I don't really find the process intrinsically enjoyable. I do it because I feel better after I write something that accurately captures what I'm feeling or thinking. If I let myself write only when I felt like it, I would probably only write once or twice a month. I'd much rather write a song or sew or paint. It's taken me a long time to figure out that discipline is every bit as important as talent, lacking in the latter I have to rely heavily on the former. Besides...I want to get this story finished while I have the momentum going and the photo albums scattered all over the bedroom floor. If I stop, it might be too hard to start again!


Loves Pickles said...

Haha, that is so true!! I try to write everyday (or very nearly) to be in the habit of it, to "train" my brain that it's writing time, to articulate feelings while they're happening-but I very much enjoy writing :) I am a firm believer that ritual and schedule are every bit as important as flake-time. Nothing proves that more than any home project; dreaded and a big pain, but if not kept on track will simply annoy the bejezzis out of home occupants until it's finished. And that explains why you're getting a story further towards completion, and I have 100 or so unfinished projects in the closet that is doubtful I'll find the head space to get back into!!! Hee hee ;)
Good luck sticking with it then, and ROCK HARD!

Karyn said...

i too plan to read from the beginning. it's easy enough to "read backwards"on blogs.

i was friends w/ belinda and 'lorna' in high school, and i am very familiar w/ the places you write about, and the antics of trying to meet someone famous (like you w/ elton).

i'm really enjoying both of your blogs!

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way, Alice, you write better than Stephen King. Yeah, yeah, I know, but still, you don't see him going around apologizing for it.