The Writer's Notebook: When the Problem Isn't the Problem

The notebook in question
The notebook in question

Well, some weeks you have it and some you don’t. The week before last, I hit the ground running after my writing class and wrote every day on a new project I’ve started. On the 7th day I kept my butt in the chair for the full hour. (It still counts even if the last 5 minutes are spent writing something like this: “Oh fuck oh fuck I can’t believe there’s a whole 5 minutes left of this torture!”)

Then last Tuesday in class, I decided to read an essay from this blog, instead of the piece I’d been working on. On Wednesday and Thursday, I let other things be more important than writing. After all, I’d done so much the week before. On Friday I decided I felt like typing up the last week’s writing. I’d taken enough of a break. Except, I couldn’t find the notebook that I had written everything in.

I spent literally days looking for it. (Literally literally, not figuratively literally) I began to feel like Samson with a buzz cut. Weak. I felt lost, betrayed almost. I not only wasn’t typing, I also wasn’t writing. I wrote zero days last week. I did no writing on any of my projects. Nothing for class, nothing on my books, no ebook giveaways, nothing.

Even after I found my notebook.

Looking back on the whole experience I see this: In writing class, my essay was well received. Suggestions were made for magazines that might be interested in it. I did some research and found one that looked like a fit. Since they preferred essays that haven’t been previously published, I set my sights on writing something brand new for them.

Then I lost my notebook. I also lost my will to write. I couldn’t conjure up the image I sometimes use to motivate myself:  stuck somewhere without paper and wanting so badly to be able to write. The thought of writing in another notebook knocked quietly at my consciousness. I dismissed it with the convoluted logic that if I did that I’d forget to keep looking for the lost notebook and it would be lost forever. That option was the logical, emotionally neutral option that just didn’t honor the turmoil I was feeling.

It was not an option because the lost notebook was not really the problem.

I was scared. I was intimidated by the whole idea of writing, submitting and…begin rejected. It has been since college that I’ve submitted anything for someone else to publish. Every single thing I’ve ever told anyone else about writing flew out the window: I worried about what to write about. I anticipated failure. I cared that I wouldn’t measure up.

When I went to class yesterday, I read the stuff I’d worked on two weeks ago. My attempt at fiction was received kindly, but it wasn’t a hit. It didn’t deserve to be. It was rough and awkward. It was a nucleus of something. And like all seeds, it does not resemble what it will become.

I made myself tell the class I was planning to write something new for the magazine submission so that I’d do it.

Some weeks you have it, and some weeks you don’t. Some days you write, and some days you think about writing. Some days you’re scared and it doesn’t feel like fear. It feels like the wind has died, and you’re adrift. You’ve given up hope of getting rescued. And you’ve forgotten all about the possibility that another wind might come to fill your sails.

photo by 99pixel courtesy of morguefile.com
photo by 99pixel courtesy of morguefile.com

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