Years ago I was having a discussion with a fellow multi-genre write, David Henderson, (poet, biographer) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2805/Henderson-David.html about the rituals which we create before we sit down to write for the day. The trick, he said, was to first acknowledge that you had specific rituals and then if they took any significant amount of time, to change or eliminate them. The need to sharpen all the pencils, find the special pen, put all the projects in order, make all the phone calls first, or in my case find some housework to do all make distance between the writer and the actual act of writing. And, in my case, finding housework is always the easiest tactic. Of course I can’t write with dishes in the sink. How could I possibly be clear with all that laundry waiting to be washed? One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Sonia Sanchez http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276 She said when you get up in the morning, make your bed. That act says to the world and yourself that you are ready for your day. I have found that to be true. It did help clear my head for work, for writing. But it also was another way to procrastinate- Make the bed, hey I’ll change the sheets and while I’m at it maybe straighten out my underwear drawer.
Now, I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. That is to say I don’t face a screen or a journal and find myself unable to put some words down, however misshapen, however sweet. Of course, I always want to write the sublime, the magnificent, that clean, pure thought, that well crafted line, that sharp insight. But while they are waiting to flow through me I am willing to push out the mundane, the ordinary, even the mediocre. Hopefully very little of that finds itself in a public light. But it is writing and any writing warms me up, builds my craft, keeps my joints oiled so that the words flowing more fluidly. I can give myself writing prompts, arbitrarily assign writing goals and deadlines and start down the road. But the road has all these little trails, Take It Slow Lane, Stall a Little Alley, Do This First Circle, that I often find myself exploring. I am a master at procrastination. Http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/procrastination.html
Well maybe not a master, but certainly I have gained journey woman status. I can not answer that e-mail post right away, return that phone call tomorrow or the day after that, and send that letter in a couple of days, with the best of them. I can play solitaire on my computer as use it as a theoretical way of thinking about what I will be writing. I can decide I must work on this particular poem right now and spend an hour looking for it because I don’t remember what I called it and thus get distracted re-reading that poem and editing the other. In short, I can not write.
Even the writing or more accurately not writing of this blog is reason for a little lingering. After all I am quite involved in a few writing projects. I am writing an exciting biography of an enslaved African who escaped to freedom and was recaptured three times before making a final getaway. I am completing a collection of science fiction short stories. I am working on the sequel to Ice Journeys, my speculative fiction novel due out next year. And I haven’t even mentioned my poetry manuscripts. Certainly I don’t have the time for a blog. But the truth is that sometimes none of the other writing is moving. I look at each writing project as a different field to clear, plant, feed and water, harvest and then let lay fallow. I have learned to accept those times when the land simply needs to rest and take in the winter rain offering up nothing but weeds and the occasional wild flower. I believe that is one of the reasons why I slip so easily from genre to genre, for me it is a kind of crop rotation. And so instead of simply declaring that I have no time to write a blog, I accept that I have the time I make and must simply tend to it as one of the smaller crops..
So my dishes are washed, most of the laundry is clean, and I have promised myself to finish one of my stories today. And ,most importantly, I have created a new ritual for my writing. Before I write, I will write. Perhaps it will be this blog, perhaps a few email posts, perhaps that overdue letter, or perhaps the ending to the chapter. And maybe, in time, I can go back to amateur status as a procrastinating writer.