Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Make Writing A Tradition You Refuse to Let Go Of

A dear friend, author and therapist Martha Clark Scala, recently sent me her monthly newsletter which talked about the struggle we all have giving up routine. When we go to the gym we want to use the same locker, the same sink, the same hairdryer. When we have a family feast we expect there to be acorn squash with the turkey. She suggested we learn to compromise--to let go of some of our "traditions."
Although I couldn't relate to the gym..or the acorn squash..her piece reminded me of a course I used to teach overseas to newcomers called "Settling In Singapore." One of my exercises was to ask the group, who had just spent a couple of hours sitting in one location, to get up and find someone new to sit with. Some would bop off to a new location, leaving all their bags behind. Others would gather up everything they owned (fearful of losing anything) and move. Some refused to budge. It was said that those who were willing to move at the drop of a hat--with nothing at all in their hands-- would have the easiest time adapting to their new surroundings. I don't know how true it was, but symbolically it made lots of sense.
This morning--after the never-ending Halloween weekend-- I was struck by how this clinging to the familiar also affects our ability to write. It's scary to wander down the unfamiliar path of writing--bumping into strange characters and dealing with new surroundings. It's much easier to stay put and work at a routine job or chore (or seek out the same sink at the gym.) I can't tell you how many people I've met who have a story to tell....if they could just find the time. And before you think I'm sounding a little too uppity, let me clarify that I'm always in danger of choosing the familiar over a morning of bumping around in the dark, especially after a long Halloween holiday. Or near a holiday. Or even after a weekend. Or near a weekend.
That's why it's important to declare to the world (or at least yourself): This is my writing time. I will write for X amount of time or X amount of words/paragraphs/pages each day. It's important to make writing one of those traditions you refuse to let go of.
BOOK/BLOGSITE of the week: I finally opened Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was a story I avoided, as I was sure it would be bizarre, unbelievable, depressing. It is all of those things, but definitely worth the read.
On a similar note author Masha Hamilton pointed me in the direction of the The Afghan Women's Writing Project. These women have amazing stories to share. One of my favorites this month is My Sister's Golden Hair.


Anonymous said...

It's always easier to go back to something we have no/little emotional stake in. I really don't care HOW well I fold the laundry. But you're right, we have to carve out time for the writing & stick to that, as well as we can. :)

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thanks, Becky. An interesting perspective. And yet, doesn't that seem bizarre? Why do we do this? Why do we want to spend our lives doing something we have no emotional stake in?

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