800 Words

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. Not just thinking about writing though, I’ve been talking about writing, reading about writing, daydreaming about writing, musing about writing and contemplating all the things I could possibly be writing if I (wait for it) just had the time to write. During this span of extended contemplation, I’ve also managed to watch several movies, the plots of which evolve around similarly stunted characters: writers of a genuinely narcissistic and depressing nature who simply cannot get past writers block. This creates quite the conflict because, if there’s one truth about writers that all you non-writers of the world needed to understand yesterday, it’s that our work is important. It doesn’t matter if we’re working on a multi-thousand dollar book deal that’s the final in a long, best-selling, screaming-teenage-girl-trilogy, a collection of poems that will define a tradition and generation of philosophical thought or a blog that’s read by (give or take) four people, one of whom is in inevitably under some sort of drug-enhanced state (don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your readership); what we write, what I write, is important.

What is equally important as whatever we haven’t written down is everyone else out there knowing that the only reason we haven’t written it down is because we haven’t the time to write it down. We’re really busy being important, you see. If we’re being honest (which we never are, being fiction writers), this is just a safety tactic.  Because if we writers can keep everyone else believing there’s something really important inside of us we simply don’t have the time to write down- well, now, that might keep you from shot-gunning us to smithereens.  This is the lazy philosopher’s answer to social Darwinism.

All this goes to say, that I’ve come to realize I must confront my primary excuse for not writing and realize it’s a load of poppycock. Stephen King wrote his first novels in a small closet, clacking away at a typewriter through the dead of night doing his best not to awaken his young wife because they both had to work the next day. Barbara Kingsolver managed to write her first novel as a pregnant insomniac. Martin Luther wrote over 6,000 sermons while he was pastoring a revolutionary church and overseeing the turning of western civilization onto its ass. These are all people who didn’t have time but nonetheless wrote for the same reason they breathed: I am, they decided, therefore I write.

Likewise, I am moved by an inner voice that tells me it is just as important that I write. Contrary to previous impressions, this isn’t because I think I’m important, or for that matter, anything I write will actually be important; I’m hardly that delusional. Rather, it’s because when I don’t take the time to write, I often find that I don’t take the time to notice. I miss the music of a window fan, the artistic arrangement of an unmade bed and the dance a stream of water takes down my street on a rainy day. It’s not about taking the time to write, it’s about taking the time to notice that there is something out there, something everywhere, worthy of writing about. I have an innate fear, as I think many of us do, of waking up one day, shaving, packing a lunch, riding the commuter, arriving at my office and finding myself staring at the empty wall of a cubicle wondering where the last twenty years went and why the world of mystery and wonder I explored has a child has become a blur I’ve passed en route to “important” things. I guess what I’m saying is that I want to write because when alls said and done I’d rather live a life that notices than succeeds.

Thus I’m beginning with the goal of writing 800 words(ish) once a week for no other reason than to notice something: an eccentricity, occurrence, irony, beauty, hilarity disaster or some other obscure noun which might otherwise slip by unnoticed. I choose the number 800 somewhat arbitrarily but mostly because it is both manageable and a happy medium between the briefest, though greatest, of statements (“I love you”, “We need gas”, “I’m pregnant”, “Let’s go to war”) and the rants of a longer nature that require greater depth and explanation (Barmen Declaration, Sermon on the Mount, Letters to an Ex-Girlfriend One Is Hoping Win Back…). If I can manage that with a sense of consistency, then I’ll up the ante to twice a week, then three times and so on until, let’s face it, you’ll have given up on reading my minuet musings and won’t be following me anyway. Even after that, I hope to notice and write.

So here’s to 800 words of gibberish, learning to look for importance outside rather than within and the conquering of terrible excuses.

Also, please don’t shotgun me to smithereens.

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