Pep Talk #3

Confession time: I haven’t been writing. This should not come as a surprise to me, as I’ve done this same thing basically for two decades now, and yet it is. In my heart of hearts, I know I should be writing, but I can still somehow never really write. Not regularly. Not the way I imagine it – and what I imagine is not some romantic every-day-or-else-I’ll-die-I’m-a-writer-see kind of way. (Nothing wrong with that, of course, but that will never be me.) The way I imagine is a realistic and painful ‘time to make the donuts‘ kind of way that, hopefully, ultimately creates the satisfaction and enjoyment of *having* created. So my expectations are realistic. I know it will be difficult and frustrating, but I’m also positive it will be wonderful to have it be done. Similar to how I feel *having* run, *having* done something challenging, or *having* conquered something long feared and built up to be impossibly difficult. Yet even having that realistic vision, I am failing every day in making it happen.

I can visualize myself as a writer, I even have a few perfect dedications in my mind all ready for those first books (lol, what – doesn’t everybody do that?), but I can’t get my pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in any kind of regular sustaining way. And this is after I wrote two public pep-talk columns. It’s embarrassing. There are always excuses, and 2020 has provided an easy array of extraordinary excuses. However, it has also been a wake-up kind of year. Not to be too morbid, but entering my mid-40s, I’m starting to hear more and more of sickness, disease, and death from family friends, extended family, and even high school and college friends. It’s no longer random, tragic accidents, but an accumulation of stress and wear and tear. I’m seeing more and more stars from my parents’ generation, and even some from my older sibling’s generation, dying or falling sick. And then, personally, I’m feeling my own once-seemingly-boundless energy decreasing, however slightly. More aches. More worries. More awareness that time is ticking along. I’m lucky to have it ticking at all, I know. And yet, I don’t write.

Part of the problem is that I don’t deal well with pressure. For example, I’ve been a vegetarian/vegan/whole-food plant-based eater for most of adult life, with a large gap when I was pregnant a decade ago. This was only able to be maintained because I kept my eating habits flexible and never made it about the label or about ‘purity.’ For some, that makes me a wishy-washy whatever, but whereas many are hardcore vegans for a year or strict vegetarians for three, I’ve mostly avoided meat, etc for twenty three years now. In real terms, that means something. My point is: this flexibility and non-pressure is the strategy that works for me. It is the way that works for my head and how it is wired. Conversely, I do well with plans, but they have to be broken into small, non-threatening bits and pieces. The most I’ve ever written is during NaNoWriMo in 2012 when my youngest was a newborn. Not quite sure how that happened, but I was determined and I had an idea for a book. I aim to do NaNoWriMo (btw, check out this archive of pep talks which are wonderful in more hopeful moments) again this year – which by the time this is published I should be halfway through – but the outcome is not looking too bright right now.

Okay, well, how do I apply this self-knowledge to writing? What is the *rest* of the problem? How do I not just write another pep-talk column? How do I avoid once again failing to deliver or even just make an honest attempt at delivering? I have made promises (here! right here, on this website I have made them!). I have played games (write and you get x). I have not told others (so there’s no pressure). I have told others (so there is accountability/pressure). I have made location lists, personality lists, scenario lists (to pull out ideas easily). I have downloaded apps and bought a wide collection of pens in many colors and one is even a fountain pen. I have read numerous writing books and written down meaningful quotes .

And still: no writing.

So, I sit here. Notebooks at the ready. Laptop cursor blinking. Can I start? And then, can I continue it? Can I even -gasp!- finish it? Each part is crucial, each is filled with its own dangers and demons for the new writer, and perhaps also for the experienced writer. I can’t be peppy today about something that yet again I am not doing so let me end with someone else’s wise and perhaps peppy words: “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” — Roald Dahl

Hm, and like that: hope surges. Let’s be fools. See you in a month.

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