Sometimes, I do this: stroke into stroke into letter into letter into word into word into sentence and another one and look, there’s a paragraph, and then, what?
There is a book, by Stanely Eugene Fish, called, How To Write A Sentence. It is an academic book, a critical analytical reader’s book, a lover of words book, but not a writer’s book. No writer should ever read it.
Flora: “Whatcha doing, Mom?”
Jane: “I’m writing about writing.”
Flora: “Is that as pointless as reading about reading?”
Jane: “Pretty much.”
But I’m doing it because in this moment, writing about anything else is too difficult.
I’m at this conference thing, and there’s a break, and the room naturally, inevitably divides into editors and writers. The editors are talking about participles and dangling modifiers.
The writers don’t actually know what any of those words mean.
That’s why we have editors.
Jane: “Why! Are! You! Guys! So! Evil!”
Cinder: “It’s not our fault, Mom. It’s the way we were raised.”
Flora: “They fuck you up, your Mom and Dad.”
Ender: “I! Am! The! Most! Evil! Thing! In! The! World!”
Stroke into stroke into letter into word into sentence… it’s called practice, perseverance. It becomes chasing flow. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t—there is only word after word, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, oh, fuck, look, 500 words, 1400 words, it’s done. It’s not good. But it’s done. (The editors will make it better. Sometimes, even good.)
You can’t explain that to the people who say “Oh, I just love to write.” See, because they stop as soon as it’s difficult.
I used to procrastinate by cleaning house, did I ever tell you that? My mom or Sean would take the kids out, I’d sit at the computer, the words wouldn’t come, and I’d get on my hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor until it shone. Clean baseboards. That awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom.
I don’t do that anymore. I chase flow. The kitchen floor be damned.
Sean: “You’ve noticed I clean the kitchen floor now, right?”
Jane: “Um… sure, baby. Yes. Thank you so much.”
Jane: “Um… do you ever clean that awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom?”
Sean: “There’s an awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom?”
Yeah… I wonder what’s growing there…
But not enough to check.
I took up bike riding once. I did it for love. No more noble reason can be found for riding a bike for love. I sucked at riding a bike. The bike shorts rode up and gave me crotch itch. The seat was too small and threatened to disappear into my unmentionables but STILL I persevered. It was for love. It was noble. I tackled a motherpussbucket slope one day. I used to shudder driving up the bloody thing in a car, but suddenly it was just me and the bike shorts and the ever-disappearing seat tackling my own personal Mt Everest and as I coasted down the hill prior to the ascent I felt this overwhelming sense of dread hit me. I had to push myself up that hill. Just me and some metal and plastic and wheels and the force that was going to get me up that ridiculously steep slope was “me”. I got almost a third of the way up before my legs started protesting. “Hang on lady, we didn’t sign up for this!” They decided to go on strike about halfway up the slope and I thought I was a goner but then I had my epiphany. My epiphany went something like this. “Holy CRAP I am going to have to get off and push this bloody bike all the way up this slope!” (That wasn’t really my epiphany, that was the precursor to my epiphany but every epiphany needs a good precursor.) I mentally grabbed hold of my panicking self and did what every good recovering addict has ever done. I started my own personal little 10 step program to get myself up that hill. I then promptly eliminated 9 of the 10 steps and just went with the one that said “put your eyes on that little white line in the middle of the road, keep your head down, DON’T look at the motherfucking top of the hill, just keep your eyes on those little white lines that keep disappearing out back of you and push those sodding middle aged legs till you get to the motherfucking top of this arsemongering mountain and you will bloody well do it!”
That was my epiphany. I made it to the top of the hill. I rode 100km that day for love. I don’t ride bikes any more but I still have the love and I still have that epiphany that got me to the top of that hill. Those life lessons that you learn when you are on the floor coaxing the dust weasels (everything is poisonous here in Australia) out from under the bed, when you are rolling socks and dusting the spider webs and baking profusely, are nothing compared to the life lessons that you get when you are wide-eyed and staring from that 40th cup of coffee and that deadline is ticking louder and louder on that little mickey mouse clock inside your head and you can actually smell your editors cologne your deadline is that frigging close, and you just start writing. THAT is the coalface of creativity. That’s where the good stuff lives and when we push ourselves through that sodding motherpussbucket of a mountain we find things out about ourselves and our inner reserves that are unmeasurably sexy and intrinsically beautiful.
By the way. I don’t do “grammar”. That is the editors job.