I’ve got a million thoughts rattling around in my head today and all of them want to be allowed to escape. It’s like my fingers can’t type fast enough or writing fast enough to keep up with everything zooming around in there. I should just crack open a notebook and empty my head. I could even use a list or a diagram – I love my lists and diagrams – of the topics I need to think about or take action on. But despite having the time and the place, I can’t bring myself to actually do it.
These sort of rattlings thoughts drive me crazy because it means I do things like get distracted when I’m heating up my lunch (mac-n-cheese with tasso ham) and nearly melt the plastic container. They keep me from focusing on what I should be – like going through the online tutorial on common Java design patterns (singletons! builders! compose entities!).
See, I got myself this brand new, shiny notebook this weekend. Matt and I were at the Crate and Barrel outlet (all alone – gasp!) and I saw this little notebook that’s bound with thread and a hard paper cover. I held it in my head for the entire 20 minutes we were in the store, begging for an excuse to buy it. It was $3.50 and we’re not in such financial straights that buying was going to bankrupt us, but I felt guilty. Thing is, I always manage to buy myself a notebook when either Matt isn’t with me or he’s not in a mood to point out that I’ve already got a good dozen notebooks that are either totally blank or only partially filled. I’ve really got a problem when it comes to new notebooks. I buy them each time we travel, when I was in school and started a new semester, when I found out I was going to be induced (so Squirms would be joining the world soon), when I switched jobs. Just about any excuse or access to an inexpensive notebook will do.
And, right now, it’s still blank, even though I’ve had all sorts of time and opportunities to sit down and write in it. And I feel like writing. And I have a pen I really like that will probably work well on the paper in the notebook. And I had no other purpose for the notebook than to contain my actual day-to-day thoughts.
What’s my problem?I blame Natalie Goldberg. Yes, I blame an author of a famous book on writing (who’s also a writing teacher, novelist, and artist) who has zero idea I even exist.This is all her fault.
She talks in Writing Down the Bones of having stacks of notebooks filled with her writing, that she allows a friend to read one day. Her friend reads about Natalie’s fears and hopes and weird dreams and probably more than one dissertation on the ceiling tiles in the room she’s chosen to write in because, well, she’s Natalie Goldberg and she’ll write about anything because all writing practice counts.
I love the idea of having all of those notebooks filled with my words. A giant pile of them, showing off to the world “I am Angela and I am a Writer.” It’s my chance to really show people how much I enjoy writing and that I don’t just do it on my blog so people can know what’s going on my life or I can get feedback. I’m also so evolved that I write, knowing that no one is reading my writing. I write for me. Look how great I am.
Then, there’s the other side of things. The part about having a friend – or, even worse, someone really close to me like my mother or Matt – read my notebooks is downright terrifying. What if I get hit by a truck tomorrow and someone finds my notebooks and, instead of just tossing them, started reading? What if it’s not my notebooks where I keep track of what happens each day without any commentary or emotion but the real writing – where I somehow manage to (mostly) turn off my internal editor and pour out my heart. What will they think of me then?
Guess which side wins out? I sit, then, staring at an empty page in an empty notebook, afraid to write anything real, in case someone finds it someday. I open the page, maybe even click open my pen, then stare at it. I get distracted by something else – the laundry, Squirms playing with a toy, a new level to play on an iPad game – and the notebook is closed, put away for a time when I actually want to write.
But today, my insecure and easily distracted side is not going to win. Tonight, in that akward time between when I’ve fed the cats and got everything ready for daycare dropoff, I will sit and just write, because this rattling sure is getting annoying.
What excuses do you guys make not to write? Are they valid or a product of your own insecurities or distracted nature? Can you push through them and join me in a bit of writing – for yourself, not for your blog or thesis or job – today?
[Editing this post to add an important note: This post was inspired by the assigned for the first day of the June, 2014 session of Writing 101 (here). The assignment for the day was to write for 20 minutes, stream of conscieneness, then post it. I mostly did this, though I’ll admit to go back through my post and editing it for a bit better flow after I was done.]