6 minute post to feel like a writer

I went to Word Vancouver yesterday and felt on the outside. I watched Arcade Fire on Saturday Night Live and felt on the outside. I read a book and felt on the outside. If you’re an artist (for example, consistently producing art), do you feel on the inside? Do you think you would also like to sell books at a booth to people not really buying them? Do you understand why Arcade Fire members have painted black over their eyes and are dancing so seriously yet so silly? And do you read a book and think, I could do this?

Because I’ve lost the artist in me for a little while now. And going to literary things and watching and reading art don’t help. I am in some real world place and even writing a blog post about it seems futile. I should be working. I should be doing something more real! And I forget that what I valued but one month ago is the importance of art and the importance of me doing it.

That is what it means to write one hour a day. You let art edge itself into your day because eventually, if you wait long enough, days turn into life. So maybe I do something a little more realistic, somewhere between the life of the teacher and the artist. I write for fifteen minutes a day. And then I let the minutes take over until eventually it seems odd I wasn’t writing as a living.

The More You Do

I’ve found this to be true enough times that it must be true: the more you do, the easier things get. I say this somewhat hopefully, having volunteered for too many things as a new elementary school teacher. I say this as somebody who writes a novel on top of living. I say this as someone who thinks they’re supposed to read absolutely every night but also write absolutely every night and also be nice to others. There’s only so much you can really do, but I think the more you try and do, the easier each thing gets.

It’s a splitting of the heart, but also a realization that the heart space is so much bigger than you thought. You can’t be up for twenty-four hours, sure, until they find a cure for that, but you can be doing more things in your day than you think you can. The moment you take a break to do something different, something you think you don’t have time for, the work you left behind on your desk suddenly gets put into perspective. That’s work on a desk. This is life.

I had a dream in which I was going to get killed by a gang member and then the gang member’s girlfriend shot herself in the mouth twelve times and I just watched her brain go everywhere. So I think I’m pretty stressed out. I looked it up in my dream book and I found that everyone in your dream (all those gang members and that girlfriend shooting herself in the mouth) are actually you. Dreams are very egotistical. And suicide, says the dream book, is an indication that you feel you have no pleasure in your life.

It’s getting to the point that I want to take up smoking, just so I can go sit out on a balcony for ten minutes and not do anything. It’s getting to the point that going to the washroom is the best part of my day, that eating a bowl of yogurt last night almost made me cry because I felt like I was treating myself and that somehow felt comforting.

I’m busy! But the more I do – the more I sign up to coach basketball and take on this thing called The Vow of Silence (which sounds easy) – the more I spread my heart out and the less I confine it to this small space between two Ikea desks where I have piled up soo many papers and worries. And the more I realize that kids are all around! And they’re just kids! They don’t care if the math thing that I’m doing makes total sense, they would just rather me be nice to them. So that’s what I figured out. Also, the more I take a moment to write a blog post, the more I realize that I am me, and not a teacher, and not a writer who is failing to write, but me who writes in this blog and thinks these thoughts, me that I left behind when I decided to work from 6am to 11pm and shoot my pseudo-self in the mouth in dreams and think that’s okay.


I Am the Worst

It’s the biggest error of a young diarist: believing that it is interesting to write a diary entry that begs the reader to forgive the writer for having been “bad,” for having forgotten a commitment, for having been too busy or too normal not to write in their diary every night before bed. And bloggers do it too, because bloggers are just kids writing in diaries but with bigger audiences (an audience). But how embarrassing a diary entry it makes, when read months later, as still the most recent post. Where does there exist a more outright proclamation of laziness?

And I am the worst. The worst of them all! I have been doing nothing but work (work work, not writing work!) for two weeks. After writing a novel in three days and thinking that would help me continue (and not give up on) writing while teaching. After once telling someone that I would probably write for 90 minutes before school and 90 minutes after. After imagining a life where a job and writing were mutually inclusive.

I am, of course, not the very worst. I understand that these were the first two weeks of school and the first two weeks of my teaching career. But then I think about how in life I have given up on so many penpals. And that there are still so many unanswered messages in my Facebook inbox because I forgot Facebook is a viable means of communication and not just where I look at what weddings you went to and read your hashtag run-offs from Twitter. I am becoming bad at making time for writing, and that’s almost the only realm of writing that I am any good at!

But I talked to my students about my writing. And I’ve had them write in their journals every morning. And I am reading a book. And I went to a writing meeting in Whistler. And I dream. And I stare at people too long in public. And I wear this long blue skirt. And when people ask me about my writing I don’t admit I’m not doing it. And then I’m doing this.

Writing Elbows

I did it, I wrote a novel in 3 days. I held my elbows at my side and I wrote a novel for 3 days straight. At the 2.25 mark (1:00 on Day Three) my elbows gave out. They hurt! I blamed them then I kissed them better. Then the day stopped. My document was stuck at 83 pages when I so badly (so badly!) wanted it to be at 100.

I wrote a story about a girl that ended up being a little shallow (17 pages shallower than I thought). It took place in one day! How much of a worthy-of-a-book life transformation can you have on that one day that will make a book worth reading? Less of one than I thought. Or at least I kept telling myself to back off because I didn’t want to appear corny. I didn’t want to accidentally write a young adult novel without meaning to! What would that say about my level of intellect? My soul?

So I added a subplot. I knew about this one already (it was in my outline). It was the story of her parents meeting at Woodstock. I didn’t know anything about Woodstock, really, so I tried to tell their story through feeling (through what I imagined was the feeling of Woodstock).  And that was okay, but it was short, because feelings are fleeting.

Overnight Sunday and early morning Monday, I began planning a new subplot. This one was the story of homeless people living in Powell’s Books (this one day takes place in Portland). However, instead of homeless people, I just created one homeless person, and I told the stories of his three great loves. This got me no further than 83 pages because love is fleeting.

What I loved about this contest was its absurdity. Everyone on Twitter shouting at each other, shouting at empty rooms: Why am I doing this? What am I doing? I loved going places that weekend (because I somehow made it to an outdoor concert and too many coffeeshops) and wondering whether people looked at me and knew what I was doing (or were interested). They didn’t; they weren’t, but I liked the secret I was holding, like I was in some cult in which we write a novel in 3 days.


(from http://annieneugebauer.com)

It’s what fiction writing is, some weird cult. You do that? Who else? Actually, I sit alone and do it, but I know some people…

One very big highlight was being interviewed by CBC’s Canada Writes about my preparation and afterwards about my experience. It was neat to appear on a website I look at often and to somehow feel validated, even before the experience happened. I love committing to hard things, knowing that all that matters is I committed.

I started teaching the day after I finished my 3 day novel. My back and my legs hurts but my elbows have stopped hurting! I love the sharp contrast: here I am alone; here I am with so many kids so full of energy. The experiences better one another, and I am better for committing to both of them, however hard and crazy a commitment that may be.