Mostly I am an eater. Yes, I knit. Yes, I write, but eating is easy. Although I eat to survive, I write to thrive, and I knit in kinship with my mother and sister. But whereas writing and knitting are works in progress, eating I finish every time.
Finishing is not my forté partly because I am highly distractible. When I sit down to write, my fuzzed-with-dust writing room suddenly becomes unacceptable evidence of my spotty hausfrau skills and must be cleaned immediately. The dirty white dog must be bathed at once. The garden centre and its sea of jaunty pirate petunias and delicate herbs kidnaps me. Knitting magazines filled with newer and better projects lead me like a sheepdog down the road to softer, woolier pastures.
Finishing takes discipline and focus. Finishing means rows and rows of repetitive knitting. Finishing a writing project means rereading, rewriting, rearranging, tossing hours, days, and years of work whereas finishing a bowl of ice cream isn’t a matter of hunger; it’s a matter of glands. Finishing is hard. Gonads are involved. I don’t have writing gonads.
Finishing comes in a wheelbarrow loaded with bricks of despair. The story sucks. The sweater looks like a sheep shat on it. Dinner, however, is good.
I do on-line writing courses to keep my pen on the paper. It works but then I’m left with a bunch of rough drafts requiring belabouring so I take another course. This is like going to the buffet table at one of those all-you-can-eat joints. The waiter removes your dirty plate. You stand up, sling your stretch pants lower on your hips testing the strength of the spandex, pick up a fresh, hot-out-of-the-dishwasher plate and load up on potato salad, samosas, and beef with garlic black bean sauce.
How I love a clean plate.
I’m trying a new writing strategy. I signed on with a poetry mentor – Caroline Goodwin. My husband/editor was miffed but since I’m paying for the privilege, I’ll show up. I picked poetry because I believe I can finish a poem. If I were a hockey player and scored as many goals as I finished stories and essays, I’d be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Clearly I need a coach. I’m hoping this mentor thing will encourage me to practice every day; remind me that writing is not a means to an end but the end – period. Everything else is gravy and stuffing and fresh blackberry pie hot out of the oven.
Know what? Something did happen when I had a conversation with my new mentor. She said it was okay to have fun. In the last year as I tried to sell my words, I felt like one of those kids pedaling an ice cream cart, tuneless bells clingling and announcing my presence. Even though I love ice cream, I hated selling it.
The best rejection letter came with an invitation from the editor who read my essay “God is a good kisser” and suggested I submit something on a similar theme with a slightly different slant. I was excited for a few minutes then thought “But I don’t want to write about that. I already said what I wanted.”
Thank God writing is not how I make a living. I make a middling living as an administrative underling. It occurs to me that I’m middling because I’m not a good finisher. Slogging through the boring stuff, knitting rows and rows and rows of stockinette stitch is necessary to succeed. Writing on demand and agreeing with the editors/bosses who dictate the work is necessary to succeed. This is hard, and I do not seek to do hard things.
I am an average employee on my best days and a cranky one on my worst. I am not celebrating this fact but it does relate to writing and success. If I write with the goal of publishing – a measurement of success – it becomes a grind. It might as well be work. If I write what I love, it isn’t hard. And really, the truth is – here’s the moment you gaze with me into my lint filled navel – I’m lazy.
Neil Gaiman says finish what you start. That’s what makes you a writer. Others say “write what you know”. Well, hell. I know I’m a good eater. Susanne Fletcher – Eater, plate licker, buffet lover. It has a good ring to it, eh?
This week’s post was inspired by three other bloggers’ posts: