I don’t feel like writing. I don’t want to write. This means that it is utterly imperative that I write. Something. Anything. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Random. Whatever. Just write.
So why the hell am I writing when I really don’t want to? Especially if I’m not even concerned with the quality or productive use of the writing I am doing. What’s the point?
Because writing is not just writing. Writing is an outlet, a pipe from your brain to Out There. And like any pipe, it needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis to prevent clogging. My pipes are getting clogged. And if I don’t clear it out, then all this stuff in my brain is not going to have anywhere to go, and will start to silt up my thinking like so much river mud. It’s a funny thing. A billion ideas, concepts, essays, novels, movie scripts, poems, speeches, whatever, can and will pop up as possibilities in the day. Characters, stuff they say, wear, think. Protaganists and historical figures whose story is demanding to find a way out. These things are real and if you don’t clean the pipes, it can get pretty crowded up in there! The other funny thing is that you don’t have to clean the pipes by writing anything brilliant, polished or perfect. These kinds of writing do emerge, with consistent application and effort, though as Martha Graham put it, the artist is never really OK with any of their work 100%… it just gets to the point where you have to let it go, mother and child style,
“There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest.”
Got that? No satisfaction. Whatever. At any time. Though… I have to say that there may be a teeny tiny bit of satisfaction out there. And it comes when you surrender to the no-satisfaction thing and get on with cleaning those pipes. It’s a short lived buzz, because damn, those pipes need to be worked on regularly. But it’s cool to sit with it for a while, feel the release, and the rush of knowing that the words and ideas emerge by writing. Not by letting the buggers swim around your head for years on end, gradually being crowded out by all the other shards of expressions that clamour for attention, till the cocophony in your head is a continuous thunderclap.
In her Monday Musings this week, Julie Tallard Johnson puts it like this,
“Instead of moving away from the wound we open up to it, find the antidote that sits next to it. And in our writing we write through the block or tension and find ourselves deep into some of our best writing.”
Maybe, in simply sitting down to clear our pipes, we open ourselves up to the possibility of unearthing a jewel amongst the din. And if we don’t, well, then we start again tomorrow. The thing is to keep those pipes clean. As Martha Graham describes it so matter-of-factly,
“It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It’s your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”
When writing is freed from the fetters of achievement and judgement, it becomes a labour of mindfulness. It is done not for the reward, but simply because it must be done in order to keep the channel open. No more. No less.
Today I am a pipe cleaner. That’s my labour. And if I do it, then I can sleep with a clear head, knowing that my work is done. Till tomorrow, when, if it is a good day, I will start again.