Yesterday morning was the scheduled day of my last long training run. My goal was to do eight since my week’s mileage was quite low. I ended up only doing six, and before I left the house, I spent about an hour piddling time away by stretching, chatting with Newman, playing with stuff on my phone, and generally avoiding the inevitable.
Then I finally got out there and got on with it.
I recognize that what I’ve been doing on this blog lately is akin to this pre-running procrastination–there’s normal resistance that builds up in me over time against my regular routines. Some of the things I resist because I don’t like them: grading and long-term class planning, for example. Some things, however, I do generally like (or at least, have chosen to do), but I resist because I’m tired; I’ve been on the treadmill for too long and just don’t want to do it again. That’s where I am now with writing and running.
What is needed at these times is inspiration or, if that is lacking, a good sit-down with myself where I face up to the situation and make a plan to get out of it. The running will take care of itself since, with one week to go, it is what it is. I will go through the week shifting back and forth between the impulse to make up for my low miles last week and the impulse to let my achy muscles rest as much as possible.
With my writing, it’s time to buckle down. I have less than twenty posts left on this blog. The blog has helped me explore different kinds of writing, and I feel good about what I have produced over the course of a year. I’m happiest about two things: 1) doing some much needed personal processing of the changes that divorce has brought into my life and 2) the creative writing I’ve done about Ireland and mothering Free. My little “vignettes” are what I want to take forward from here to a real project. Lately, I’ve been imagining them as a finished collection–a short collection, but a collection nonetheless. I want to do this as a gift for Free, but I also want to do it for myself. I want to know that I can complete a writing project from start to finish, one that I am proud of, one that feels complete and lovely in itself.
I think part of my resistance to doing more creative writing lately comes from fear. I’m scared I won’t be able to do it. My last big writing goal, the dissertation, lies stagnant in boxes and old drafts in my basement, and I am afraid that this project will go the same way. Rather than lump these writing projects together, however, I want here to name my specific fears about this project and make a plan to overcome them.
I know I’m afraid I won’t be good enough as a writer–that the moments of inspiration are too few and far between and I can’t call up the muse when I need her. I’m afraid that I’m not a real writer, that there’s only a little kernel there, without enough heat to help it fully pop. Sometimes when I sit down with an idea, I don’t chase it because I’m afraid I’ve already written about it before and don’t want to be boring or obsessive. I’m afraid that I don’t have a lot to say and that what I have to say isn’t all that interesting. Sometimes I’m afraid that my version of the story isn’t the right or full version. I imagine my ex husband or one of my siblings picking up the story and shaking their heads bitterly, saying “no no no that’s not the way it was.” Sometimes their imagined voices are louder than mine, and I give them too much power. Sometimes I think I’m writing how I wish things were instead of how they are, and that makes me put down my metaphorical pen. Sometimes I’m just afraid that I sound silly; I picture one of my students rolling his eyes after reading a page of a book that I love, and I think that I don’t want to put my words into the hands of someone who might laugh at them.
Crazy, these fears. They’re real, of course, real enough to squash my words like dampened fingers clamping down on a candle’s wick. They’re crazy though, when I write them down, because I don’t believe in them. I am stronger than them, and it’s enough to write for myself and for my daughter. That will be my first strategy, then, to make the world no bigger than me and her when I need to, to imagine me snuggling into her bed at night, tracing her face and telling her stories. I get to decide what those stories will be, and she gets to hear them, to hold them or change them or reject them or make them her own. I will trust her with my words. I will trust myself.
Here is what I will do. I will write without fear as much as I can during the remaining blogs. I will repeat and re-hash and obsess, if I need to, in order to produce as much as I can. I will re-read my own words, something I’ve been avoiding, and search for motifs, for ideas to develop, for connections I can make. I will write. At the end of the blogging year, I will print out what I have and see what kind of picture it makes. I will start to arrange the pieces and sort them. I will talk about the project as a project. I will own it. I will share with those closest to me that I have started to dream about a small bound book, self-published, perhaps with an image that my sister creates for me on the cover. I will not let my fears take control.
I will know, quite simply, that I am getting on with it.
This image and its accompanying quote is the inspiration I have been waiting for. I love them both so much. I am going to freewrite about them today to get back into the mode, and for my next blog post, I am going to work on developing any ideas I dig into here.
This is how I want to hold you forever. This is how my own mother held me, and this is what mothering is–this and only this. It is to love and share and touch and laugh and let. It is to lend my strength to you when you need it. It is to open myself and trust myself and find my truth. It is to wonder and ask and explore. It is to see beauty in another and recognize it in yourself. It is to learn that giving is taking. It is to accept the gift.
When I was little I loved keys and maps. I loved those old heavy silver locks. I loved to feel their weight in my hands, to turn the key and hear the click and lift the links and watch the contraption open up. Maps are the same; they contain and hold and open things up. Their lines and colors stretch and sway, and I can trace bumpy remnants of old journeys on them. Antique maps have monsters on them, and now the land they describe has changed. Paper maps wear out and become smooth in their roughness, less accurate in what they mark but more true to the heart of a place. They are like my mother’s hands, familiar and soft, furling like ferns.
I want to put a map in my daughter’s hands, show her what it is to track her steps along wider paths. I want her to know the weight of old locks, to hold heavy keys in her hands that have long since lost touch with the doors they used to open. I want her to know what these things mean to me, but I also want to discover what they are to her. I also want to be there to share in the treasures she finds.