Last night I went to a Salvatore Scibona and Patricia Smith reading. Smith read several memorable poems. One of my favorites was “Medusa”, spoken in the voice of Medusa. I feel so, so glad I got the chance to hear that poem read. It made me shiver.
Scibona read his short story “The Kid” (a heartbreaker). Before the reading, there was a very informal Q&A session. He started off by discussing his writing process (basically, one of the three questions writers are always asked): he writes at the same time every day, six days out of the week, for at least three hours. He started this habit when he began at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the advice of Frank Conroy, kept it up, and over the years he’s found that he is able to write for longer and longer periods of time. Then he talked about how you had to do right by your unconscious, and it would deliver, etc.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this advice. I read somewhere that another writer said this was really the one practical advice about performing writing. As Scibona said, it’s something you can control. You can’t control whether something will happen or get done, but you can control the showing up part.
I used to have a semi-habit, which was I wrote after school and at night, like every day. That was nice. That could be why I was so productive back then, and satisfied at the time with what I was producing. That’s not the case anymore; my writing is sporadic. I still mostly write at night, but this semester it’s become a “when I have time/the urge” thing, instead of setting aside a dedicated block of time. No other real habits. Sometimes I have music on in the background, sometimes not. Sometimes it has lyrics, or is bluesy, or acoustics or live performances. I keep my desk lamp on instead of writing with the floor lamps, which are warmer but not as bright.
There is definitely a difference when there is blood going to it, versus when I’m sitting there, no flow or zone or whatever, and it’s all just forced. Maybe one of my dreams is that one day, all of it will just work. Or maybe there won’t be anything being forced. Or maybe even the forced stuff comes out good.
Next month is NaNoWriMo, which I won’t be doing, but I should be producing 50,000 words for my thesis anyway. Time to lay down a schedule. Let’s do this thing.
(Photo credit: Eleanor Hardwick)