It Feels Too Good

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Wanna know why I don’t write?

It feels too good.

It’s not a dearth of ideas or difficulty wrangling the language.

It’s just too much.

It’s the same reason listening to music is such a painful and transporting experience for me, and why I don’t do it as often as I’d like. Sensory overload. Emotional overload. I’m not equipped to process the feelings that flood me, even when they’re amazing.

From what I’ve seen, most people can cry, or meditate, or punch a wall, fuck a stranger–whatever the hell works in that moment. Or, they just don’t get riled up in the first place. Me? When something’s going on in my heart, I eat half the fridge, freeze up real quiet, watch 18 hours of TV, then pretend like nothing happened, even to myself. But inside, where I don’t want to visit, there’s so much going on.

I’m an artist (er, self-styled). I’m supposed to make art out of this shit, right? So what’s the holdup?

Honestly, a lot of the time I don’t–in the WORST way–have any desire to know what’s going on inside me, let alone do anything about it, say anything about it, or write anything about it. Yet when I do tap into it, crack into it, I feel like a ripe pomegranate ripped open, spilling succulent ruby seeds. It hurts like fuck, but it’s the only time I truly feel like myself, feel like I have something to offer that’s juicy and good and has savor to others in this world.

It’s raw. It’s my blood. It’s my heart and it feels like a song. But that kind of good is scary, you know? Like, I’ll be carried away and lose myself, can’t come down to earth when I need to. Can’t regulate when I need to. Can’t put myself back in the toy box when playtime’s over.

Today I wrote something beautiful. I sat in a pretty blue dress in the window of a coffee shop with the sun at my back and I wrote something real in a way that did its subject justice. A construction worker met my eye as he was doctoring his coffee. He stopped still. He said hello as if he hadn’t meant to. I said hello, and smiled, and turned back to my work, my truth, and knew I was unguarded to the world. I knew I was beautiful.

And I am shaking all over, in the aftermath.

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That Moment…

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I dunno about you, fellow writers, but there are days–okay, whole weeks, months, and even years–when the writing doesn’t flow. It’s a strain and a slog, and each sentence struggles to be born like a breach baby. Sometimes, for all that, the results are pretty damn good. LAST CHANCE LLAMA RANCH was frequently that way. When I was writing it, under deadline and distracted by a shit-ton of personal crap, there were days I hated my job and had to rely on craft rather than inspiration, though I still feel it’s the best work I’ve ever done.

But man, the days when it comes easy are what it’s all about.

For the first time in months, I had a day like that yesterday. I’d fought to eke out a single paragraph a day for weeks, and suddenly, boom, five pages in an hour. Five good pages; pages that advanced the story and brought depth and poignancy to the characters. Fuck, that feels good. I wish all days could be like that.  But I’ll take them when they come.

Easy Like Friday Morning

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Today I feel like having a gentle morning. It’s been a balls-out month of writing (30,000 words in 30 days) and I am thrilled with that. I intend to have another good day of writing today too. But I think I need to approach it in a softer way today.

So much of my life this past year has been stressful, dealing with death, divorce, and heartbreak, and soon, a big cross-country move. I’ve earned that new streak of grey hair, for sure. And I’m still kicking–fiercely sometimes. Often, I don’t even feel like I’m breathing; I’m just plowing along, shoulders in the traces, trying to stay alive and not lose the things I still have. It can be hard to appreciate the things that make life beautiful at a time like this, or even to look up and see them.

I haven’t gone to see the aspens in their golden splendor, or hiked my favorite trails in months. I haven’t fed the birds in my yard, or eaten in my favorite restaurants. Haven’t strolled downtown, peeked in art galleries, gone shopping.

I have had some lovely laughs with good friends, here and there. I have had the pleasure of using my craft, and knowing I’m doing the thing I was meant to do with my life. I know things will get better as I move through this phase, and I know there are good things in store. I just have to treat myself in a loving way if I want to get to the finish line.

Writing is like sex… in a very weird way

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I was talking to my friend BB the other day, as we were huddled over our laptops trying to write our books. And I asked him, “Hey, do you ever get that thing where, after you write a really great couple of sentences, you feel like you have to pull back, look away, focus on something else for a few seconds even though you’ve suddenly gotten into the flow better than ever?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Absolutely.”

“It’s like sex,” I mused. “Like, you’re getting too close to your orgasm too quickly, and you have to hold back and not blow your wad, as it were.”

“We guys are very familiar with this phenomenon,” BB assured me dryly.

I still find it weird. Why, just when I’m grooving, do I suddenly need to check Facebook, feed the cat, do a load of laundry? Maybe it’s a fear of getting lost in that flow. Maybe it’s too exhilarating. Or maybe it’s simpler than that, and inspiration only comes out in little puffs at a time, especially these days when we’re all so used to shattered concentration, multitasking on multiple screens. I don’t remember anymore if I used to be able to cruise along in the flow, be carried away rather than resisting. The internet and its distractions have been a part of my experience too long.

For now, I’ll take the little puffs of inspiration, and hope they lead to a satisfying climax in the end.

Willy-Nilly

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I have been writing, I swear. It’s just that what comes out won’t please, won’t make you laugh and lollop with llamas and fit into the mold of lighthearted fiction. What I’m writing wakes me in the morning and makes my fingers fly, roars forth, rips tears from my makeup-from-the-night-before eyes.

I’m expelling, I’m sure. Vomiting forth grief, and shock, and bemusement and fear for the future. I thought this grief would be quick. I thought the horridness of my father would make for a smooth transition to fatherlessness. I thought the equanimity of my divorce, the already-deadness of the marriage would mean I wouldn’t feel the loss.

But I guess not.

Mother’s Day approaches, and I remember how Mom liked flowers as much as any woman, and probably more. How she’d point out every bulb bursting forth from every tree planter on our block from Third to Lexington, every first forsythia cascading yellow over the grey-brown walls of the Central Park transverses, and ooh over the roses in the Conservatory Gardens.

I thought I dispelled my grief for her over months and years and therapy and trips to Kripalu to cry and commiserate and breathe deep yoga-scented breaths. But by damn, a little dose of Mom would go down smooth right now.

What to do, Mom? Buy a house and settle here, alone? Make no sudden moves, stay in my less-than-special rental, or move back to the city you loved and a love of which you instilled in your kids ‘til neither of us could imagine an identity other than New Yorker?

I still get Dad’s subscription, forwarded on to Santa Fe with the rest of his estate-of mail. And I still let it pile up, too precious to dump, and only read it for the cartoons or not at all, shameful I know. I suspect the New Yorker is the most shame-inducing, least-read periodical of all time. Even you were backlogged three issues on the nightstand, Mom.

Anyhow, I thought I’d be better by now. Ready to date, ready to commit, ready to write lovely llamas and hot tub hippies and heroes with a twinkle in their eyes. And I’m trying, I’m doing it by drips and drabs, though damn the work is slow. Only forgive me, gentle folks, if I need a moment still to let the “what the FUCK?!” flow. I’m still in it, whether I wish or no. And I guess that’s how it’s gonna be a little while yet.

My friend Pam asked me to describe my writing process. At this moment I’m in my living process, and what I write won’t be bent to my will. It just needs release, so that’s what I’m doing, whether or not the rage and pain and sadness ever see the light of day. Bear with me, friends. The llamas will come.