I wasn’t going to blog today. I was just going to work on my novel, because I tried blogging on Monday. It went horribly. I ended up deleting everything and suffering through a mini existential crises. For those of you who have been around for a while you know that this is not abnormal. But I was frustrated. I began wondering where my mojo had gone, and then that turned into wondering if I ever had any mojo in the first place.
But this morning I found my mojo. I sat down to do a writing exercise. Almost three months ago I promised I would do this daily. I even bought a book of 365 prompts–one for everyday of the year. That was three months ago and I am only on Day 19. I am abysmally behind, but I try not to let that get my down. Anyway I got myself ready to write, sat down and faced a prompt I had been dreading: If only… That’s the prompt. All of the prompt. All I could think was, “God what a cliché.” It took me three days to face it, and up until I put pen to paper I had no idea what I was going to write.
There are two questions that I have gotten better at asking myself as I write. 1. Is this a cliché? 2. Is that the best, most unique way to describe this?
They are important questions. But I was afraid that my questions wouldn’t help me when the prompt itself was so incredibly unoriginal. But then between sitting down and putting my pen to my notebook I found my mojo. Ironic I would find it in the most cliché of places. I get so wrapped up in the head game of writing I forget ALL THE TIME that I actually like this. I like creating with words.
This is what I wrote:
If only were the only words that crossed his mind, and he felt girly for it. It was probably the side-smacked way his dad raised him, but he didn’t feel like he was supposed to have thoughts that bordered on regrets. Now that he thought about it he probably wasn’t even supposed to be analyzing his feelings. He pounded his forehead with the side of his fist, trying to joggle the thoughts out of the curves of his brain. But even if he succeeded he wasn’t sure where they would go. Out his ears? He doubted it.
Writing is like DNA. There are genes and then there are miles of junk. I guess the art of practicing is learning to minimize the junk, or at least recognize that a lot of it is necessary. You probably just won’t know why.
When I think of good writing–writing that I want to be my own–I think of Louise Erdrich. I have read two of her books now: The Last report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Master Butchers Singing Club. Both were life changing. They were so good that I have bought to more of her books without reading them before, and I am looking forward to reading them. I usually only buy books that I already love. Usually. Unless there is a book sale. Erdrich is so good at crafting a character. I love Agnes from The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is what I would become, left to my own devices:
She played piano, too, for hours, and practiced more intensely than ever. She began to read…Now with a town library full of volumes she never read she became a reader. A wolfish, selfish, maddened, hungry reader who let the chickens scream and peck one another to death, who ignored the intelligent loneliness of the pig and forgot to milk the groaning cow…Only her toughest chickens survived.
I actually wanted to try to teach myself piano after reading that chapter. I love her rhythm and her way with words. I am always amazed at how original her writing is. She describes things in ways I have never seen before. I am jealous of this (this is a longer excerpt, please forgive me):
Into her brooding there intruded an absurd fantasy, the possibility of escape, though it was to a place few would consider so–the mission and the missionary life. She thought of doing good. Alleviating the pain that others felt might help to assuage her own. She began to pray, asked to regain the clarity of her original religious impulse, her early vocation. Chopin had stolen her from Christ to give to Berndt. Christ had stolen Berndt from her to take for himself. Now she had only her Chopin, her music, for Christ was preoccupied with introducing Berndt to all the other farmers in heaven and for Agnes he seemed to have no time. She prayed. He did not answer. Chopin was more reliable. She could not stand the farm–not without Berndt. Now that she remembered him, the place was treacherous with the raw ache of memory that returned in unexpected bits, then vanished before she could get the whole of it firmly laid out in her mind… though her world was tame, the peace she sought was lost within the wilderness of her own heart. Sometimes she howled and savagely tore the wallpaper of her bedroom and then lay on the floor. Spent, she thought that there was no place as unknown as grief.
I promise I won’t quote any more. I am obsessed, I know. Half the time when I think of her writing I am paralyzed in my own, because I can see the distance between the two. Then, when I am in the right place I am inspired. It is like being unable to walk, having the ability to relearn, and watching someone else’s healthy swagger. You know you will get there someday, but that doesn’t change where you are today. Sometimes watching that healthy swagger is altogether depressing, and other times it gets you thinking about your own two feet.
Today is a two feed kind of day.