Archive | December, 2014

The doing of it is the thing

25 Dec

I recentMeTypewriterTattooly had a large typewriter tattooed onto my arm. Although I love the aesthetics of the drawing, I can’t claim that the image has particular resonance with my own history as a writer. My first writing tool was a Mac SE computer, but somehow a drawing of an outdated Apple machine seemed less iconic than a beautiful Underwood.

I felt I somehow needed to mark myself as a writer in a permanent way, even though I don’t feel like one on most days. Most of the words I compose go into press releases and web postings that don’t bear my name, but do contribute to the general struggle for workers’ and human rights. I feel good about the text I compose and the people I do it for. But the politics and passion are tempered by professional considerations. I write for work, but rarely for myself anymore.

Part of this has to do with the fact that I have given up on the idea that any of us can have “it all” or find an elusive balance between parenting, paid work, activism and creative pursuits. I am a person that needs a lot of downtime. I often don’t have the “spoons” to add my personal take on the issues that hit me in the gut, when I am exhausted from a full day’s work, intense negotiations with a toddler and other domestic responsibilities. And I also place a high premium on social relationships. Given limited energy and time, I would rather work no more than is necessary and spend the rest of my time with the people I care about.

So, like many of us, I post obsessively to social media. Short commentaries on articles, pithy Tweets — micro commentaries to a limited audience of a few hundred friends. And our arguments become self-supporting as we huddle in our insular social networks, agreeing with ourselves, blocking the occasional interloper and sometimes opening our eyes to issues we may not have considered.

But is that enough for me? I’m not so sure anymore. I just cracked open Amy Poehler‘s biography and was struck by her opening reflections on the challenges of writing (or doing anything!) while parenting:

Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out … And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and then you write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you write feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying is not the thing. 

I am inspired by writers like Anne Thériault and Gina Crosley-Corcoran who write their way through parenthood and school and depression and other personal challenges. They do it well and have steadily built up audiences on their blogs. Enough to stimulate critical conversation and sustain themselves (to some degree) with their writing. I am lucky to have a great job, but it’s one that demands a lot of my creative energy.

But if I’m really a writer, maybe it’s time to do the thing instead of talking and worrying about the thing. That’s what I’m thinking about tonight. But at least I took the time to write it down.