Okay, I’ll admit: I am not feeling flush with inspiration tonight. I’ve looked at some of the go-to feminist sources on my Facebook feed for something to pontificate about. I’ve been thinking about what’s going on in my life to see if there’s something insightful or reflective that I want to say. And I got nuthin’.
However, I’m quite aware that I skipped posting Friday and Saturday night (though I did try and compensate with a split-the-difference Saturday afternoon post), so I’d like to turn that trajectory around by getting something up.
Especially since I’ll be off-the-grid at the end of this coming week and through the weekend — meaning, inevitably, more silence — and it’s another crazy deadlines week starting tomorrow — which may mean yet still more silence.
So what’s a
young girl middle-aged blogger to do?
I’m sure we’ve all heard, at one time or another, the notion that the most important ingredient to any learning/mastery/creative process is to “just show up!”
For example, this quote from an interview with Isabel Allende:
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?
Show up. Show up in front of the computer or the typewriter. And if I show up long enough – it happens.
Or this post from a blogger who cautions against advice that makes writing seem too “difficult” — an excuse for us to continue procrastinating, he says — and who insists on the simple necessity of the “just show up” message:
I am not about to tell you that writing is easy. Writing is hard. Writers never stop fearing that what they write isn’t good enough. They can’t come up with good ideas. They come up with brilliant ideas that don’t work. They write terrible things and good things. And they try to make sure that people never see the terrible things, and that as many as possible see the good things.
No writer I know thinks writing is easy.
But no writer I know thinks writing is complicated.
If you’ve been waiting to write because you think that one day someone will give you the advice that makes writing easy, stop waiting. No one can make it easy.
All we can do is make it simple.
Show up. Write.
Or there’s any number of similar sentiments in this collection of bits of writing advice from actual real writers.*
And I get this approach. I do. I believe in this approach. Even though I eventually decided not to finish my dissertation or my Ph.D., I will tell you that my most productive months on that project were once I was able to shift from a place of full-on “frozen by depression and writer’s block” to embracing the idea of daily writing on the project. Every day, putting my inner critic into her lockbox for at least a tiny little bit and putting fresh words on the page. (I know the recommendation of a Ph.D. dropout may not mean much in this context, but this was one of my productivity bibles. I can’t speak highly enough for how it benefitted my life and my work.)
So, yes, I’m a believer in “just” showing up at the page.** It’s why I strive for a daily journal-writing practice. It’s why I am often the one at work most willing to send out that “sacrificial first draft” to get a project moving. (‘Cos this much I know for sure: if we don’t get started, we ain’t never getting to the finish line.)
In short: I am not the kind of writer who sits waiting for my muse to waft in looking like an Alphonse Mucha engraving, with her artful Art Nouveau tresses and dresses wafting on an unseen breeze. But I’m not yet sure I’ve figured out the finer points of bringing this insight into my blogging practice.
Because everything I know about “showing up at the page” is predicated on the notion of there being a first draft — whether you call it “sacrificial” or, following Anne Lamott, “shitty” — and then an editing process by which the first draft becomes something more polished, worthy of publication. But when the draft-to-publish cycle is as truncated as it is in the blogosphere, what does it look like to have the practice of showing up at the (web)page? Does it mean publishing things that are half-formed, rougher? (In short, publishing shittier things?) Does it mean cultivating more of a practice of drafting, revising, and editing for blogposts? (Which, I’ll admit, feels a touch daunting for my life’s schedule. Maybe I should cut back on even more TV…)
I don’t have this conundrum worked out yet. But, with the willingness to navel-gaze and write about the writing process, I at least found something to reflect on that justifies a post for tonight.
I’ll take care of tomorrow’s post — if there is one — tomorrow.
* ‘Scuse the snark — the post’s title, although clear as clear could be just hit a nerve tonight. D’you think maybe we’d be expecting writing advice form fry-cooks or makeup artists?
** Had to use the scare quote, ‘cos the word “just” in “just show up” kind of cheapens how essential showing up at the page is. It obscures the raw, radical courage of showing up.
Secret to a bestseller: http://elizparker.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/writers-show-up-by-getting-a-writing-buddy/
Mucha, “Muse”: http://www.alfonsmucha.org/Muse.html
3 thoughts on ““Showing Up” In Virtual Space”
Just showing up really does work. Sometimes, I think people think that isn’t “complicated” enough. There must be more to it. 😉
Read this recently (in a NYT profile on comic Maria Bamford), and it struck me as perhaps a helpful way to think about the work the word “just” can do. Not to trivialize the effort but–when needed–to lower the barriers we can erect against ourselves through too much expectation.
“Maria Bamford has a mantra of sorts, and here it is: Do the work. Three words, three syllables. An easy, orderly thing. She tells it to herself when she wakes up in the morning, whether it’s at her bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles or at a Holiday Inn in Boston or a Marriott in Bloomington, or any of the other highway-side hotels she hits for one night before moving on. Do the work. It’s a stay against paralysis, against the descent of dread. It’s less dramatic than “seize the day!” more affirming than “stop overthinking everything!” It is functional, and that’s what she’s trying to be. Do the work. She repeats it on airplanes, in taxis, on the long walks she takes to calm her nerves before a show. Sometimes she amends it to: Just do the work, the “just” a reminder that she’s not, after all, performing surgery on babies.”
Ooh, that’s a great new way for me to think about “just” showing up. I will take ANY tool I can use to help lower that high-bar thing I run on myself. Thanks!!
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