Things to put in ink

feather2
story |noun| a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader

The finish line for the first module of Luís’ FIFA Master is in plain sight. And with this will come the end of Leicesterhood as I know it. Yay – obviously! But also, a more thoughtful “oh my.” That means the end of the first chunk of my literary project too and that gives me the jitters.

How has it gone? Am I any good yet? How many pieces have I produced? How many pages? How has my feedback been so far? Are people reading my blog (and by the way, yes they are!)? Have I been reading enough literature? Have I been reading enough about writing? Have I been working on my vocabulary? How many writing websites are on my MacBook’s bookmark list? Have I met any serious scribblers? Will I meet my literary goals this year? Wait – what were those again? Will I still be a writer when the FIFA Master is done? Will the law call me back? Do I miss the law and that life? … and the questions just keep spiraling and spiraling, like a baby’s mobile in a tornado – there goes the chicken and then the cow.

Some days begin with Zeit coaxing me out of bed with the smell of fresh coffee. It’s a trick of course. I should know better by now. As soon as I’m up, he begins smacking me over the head with a barrage of questions phrased much like those above. I try to crawl back into bed, but even Geist pushes me into the shower at that point. Other days, it’s Geist’s more gentle approach that invites me into the day. As he strokes my hair and slowly peels back the duvet, he reminds me how precious an opportunity it is to be able to write like this, how each short story I read teaches me something about character development, pace and structure, how each draft I slave over develops my literary voice, how each bit of feedback I get helps get rid of my writing canes, how each author interview teaches me something about method, overcoming challenges and the importance of friendship, how each book on writing gives me a few new authors or publication titles to look into, as I skim the chapters on alcoholism and depression. It sounds like I’ll need at least one of these to have a shot at getting published. Hmm…

But you know what? I’m ok with all these provocations. They keep me on my toes. I am excited. And, yes, every morning, scared shitless.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it very eloquently in her Ted Talk, I just need to show up for work, flex my muscles, hone my skills and beg divine inspiration to throw me some crumbs. I actually think crumbs are about as much as I can chew just now. Hopefully, over time I’ll get better. And then I’ll get good. And maybe then great. But I agree with Raymond Carver – a recent love – when he said in his Paris Review interview that there is fierce pleasure in the process.

Of course there are many moments of brain fuzz. You know – those moments when your brain feels full of fuzz balls and you can’t get a clean thought out of it. Thankfully, I’ve managed to develop some very personal techniques to deal with these.

A recent technique is the tea test where tea is used as a measurement of time. A cup of tea takes time to drink. Have I let this mug go cold? Then I’m focused. Has it disappeared from the mug without my noticing? Focused again. Anything else, I’m misbehaving. I misbehave a lot. And I also drink a lot of tea.

And when it gets really bad, I walk into the Leicester cold with a nude… head. Well, as nude as it can be with the serious tresses I sport. The cold air does wonders to air out my thoughts and cool down the overheated cogs of my ever churning brain. I remember the first time I did this. I was in high school studying for exams and there had been a snowstorm. I’d been stuck in my bedroom studying for days and I couldn’t bare the stifled air any longer. The hot lamp, the hot pages, my hot hair. So I, inappropriately dressed for the weather, got up and took a walk around the block. And it was marvelous – as refreshing as ice cubes in a gin and tonic. (If you are truly desperate and can’t leave the house for whatever reason, washing your hair with cold water works too. Just did it. I have a towel atop my head turban style as we speak. Waiting for a package to be delivered.)

They say writing is a lonely business and it is. But I certainly feel the support from my silent army – the people who care enough to give me feedback on my work, the people who read my blog and send me little messages saying how much they liked this or that, asking me when my next post will go up, the people who randomly send me links to things they think might help – like my high school friend who lives in a whole other continent and practices an entirely different profession did this morning after seeing my post on Facebook.

As I explained to a friend this week, I’m a writer because I write. Because I get nervous when I am away from it for too long. Because writing has become how I see the world. To write, for me, is life affirming and a little all consuming. I once read an article by the son of Sophia Mello Breyner Andersen, a Portuguese poet who writes beautifully about the sea. He said his mother would constantly lose them on the street when they were small. She was just so lost in her head. They ended up getting used to being the ones to keep an eye on her when they went out. I have to admit I can kind of relate. I guess that’s why I don’t cycle. Leave that to those that don’t get caught up in conversations with imaginary characters.

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