Write Anyway

My students often talk about facing the blank page and not knowing what to say, not “feeling it.” I go on and on about how I make myself write for an hour, no matter what (and that’s qualified by days where chaos intervenes, and the weekends where mom doesn’t even try to write). Today I’ll give specifics about why and why and why. I could imagine not writing today. I’m in chronic pain and in a phase of “off meds” for rheumatoid arthritis. Yesterday was a great day, and I couldn’t stop writing, didn’t want to, wrote well beyond my hour. Today I woke up with a foggy head, wondering after the alarm rang, will this be a pain day? I moved a knuckle. There was pain. Okay, maybe it won’t be that bad. And by 8:00 am, after getting my son off to school, it was bad enough to be distracting and mind-fogging. Bad enough so that I sat there and thought, I could just lie down. And what would I have to say in this state anyway, painpainpain? So I checked Facebook and clicked on links and made a donation to Japan and stalled for 20 more minutes. Did other important online tasks that were not writing. Precious morning time spent on what is “afternoon” stuff. But it had to be confronted: write, or no? The answer is always yes because writing makes me think about something besides my own small life. It lets me out of this one small life. But it was hard today. I’m not saying that for “poor me” points; this is just about process. I have never had to do what I did today. The pain was so bad that I kept looking at the clock and was not able to remember what time it was. So I wrote down “8:20” on a piece of scrap paper so I could remember when I started. I pulled open my big document and fiddled around with the opening paragraphs that needed help. I know that in these states, I am more “micro” oriented. I do less with swooping sketches and more with precision and miniatures. I had some boring precise introductory language to mess with; less creative, but still a part of a piece. So I did that today, and the pain served: it kept nudging me. Hello hello hello? It said. And so I picked on and on and on. And as always, the reward: a few paragraphs, and a sentence or two that I like that said something and that did not exist yesterday. I made it to 9:20, with enough spare thoughts and energy to write this. And I felt the time-leap that comes with writing, almost an hour where, in chunks of 15 and 20 minutes, I forgot myself entirely. This is not about masochism. I have stretches and resting and pills to take. But I am still a writer, and it’s good to know that not even pain can take that away from me.

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