Thursday, November 28, 2013

How To Stop Writing

            Write Every Day!

            Keep Writing Daily!

            Or so screams just about every MFA program out there and every other article in Writer’s Digest. But I can think of no better way of turning something you may possibly love into a dreaded chore. Not writing makes me miss writing. Not writing makes me crave writing. There are numerous sexual analogies one could make here, but I will refrain.

Let me just say that whenever I do take a break from writing and eventually get back to it, I take my time with it. I go slowly. I spend time. I try to taste every scene. I feel every word. I linger until the page starts to quiver and begs me to firmly plant a period down.

            Sure, I may long to pound the keyboard, but I hold back, drawing out the pleasure for as long as I can. I don’t want the writing to end. And then I slip in just the right adjective.


            But I’m not in my twenties anymore, so, afterward, I need time to recover.

I replenish. I get stronger. I lay back and process what’s just happened. I fantasize about what’s to come. I smoke a cigarette and thank my lucky stars. And no matter how badly I may want to keep writing, I wait until the page starts flirting again.

            And, later, if I find myself stuck in some dull routine, I’ll try writing in different places. Just the other day I sat in my car, parked outside of a church while it was raining and wrote a quickie. Or sometimes I’ll switch it up a little by busting out an old typewriter (MILF: Machine I’d Like to Fiction), all dolled up in vintage clothes. Or maybe I’ll get primitive and use a pen and paper. Sure, it’s a little dull (to spice it up try a colored or ribbed pen—or both!),  but we’re never too old to work on the basics again.

            So, in conclusion, yes you could write every day.

            But why would you?

            I say try abstaining for a day or two, a week if you have a strong enough constitution, and you’ll only heighten the pleasure of this ancient pastime we call making the love.

Or, um, writing.



How To Stop Reading

How To Stop Reading

            Disclaimer: The following is intended for those who read too much, who care too much about writing to that point that they are too intimidated to try it themselves. If you haven’t already read a ton of books, by all means stop reading this and pick up a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo or something.

            Some of the best advice I ever got about writing came from a musician. She told me, after listening to my whiskey-fueled lament about how I’d never be able to create something truly beautiful, that she stopped listening to music whenever she was working on a song. When I asked why, she said that hearing really good drummers did nothing but fill her with self-doubt. It paralyzed her, to the point where she didn’t even want to pick up her drum sticks. And she would inevitably convince herself that she had no right making music at all. She said that after listening to me talk about the writers I looked up to (Steinbeck, McCullers, Roddy Doyle, Cormac McCarthy), she thought the best thing I could do for myself would be to stop reading books for a while.

            And she was absolutely right.

            At the time, I was painting houses for a living. I hadn’t written anything in at least ten years because, well, I’d decided long ago that I didn’t have what it took. And I was mostly right about that: I wasn’t very good. I had nothing to say. I was “choked” as one not-so-subtle girlfriend told me at the time. So what did I do all that time I wasn’t writing?

            I read books. A glorious, wonderful f-load of books.

            And now here I was getting drunk with a friend, talking once again about a dream I had long ago murdered, talking about how I wished I could create something as perfect as, say, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

            “You ever listen to Rush’s YY2?”

            I lied and said I had.

            “You think after listening to Neil Peart play something as amazing as that that I could sit down to my crappy little kit and play? I’ll never be Neil Peart. Not even close. And I’ll never be Keith effing Moon. But what I can be is the best drummer in whatever crappy bar we happen to be playing in that night. You see what I’m saying? Put War and Peace away. Lower the damn bar. That’s where you start. Someplace where those giants aren’t staring over your shoulders.”

            I don’t remember much else from that night. Other than her telling me that she didn’t know if I was a good writer or not, but that she did know that I wasn’t just a housepainter. Not that there’s anything wrong with being just a housepainter, as long as that’s all you want to be.

But that’s not all I wanted to be.

I wanted to rock out.

And so I put the McCullers and Steinbeck away.

I stopped measuring myself up against the giants.

And now I’m finally playing.

And that’s what matters: figuring out what it is that’s stopping you from attempting your dream.  So what if the soundtrack to your dream features somebody banging away happily on an old suitcase rather than a twenty-piece drum kit.

It’s your dream after all.