It started as a blog about assumptions. About Christmas and how the dominant culture in our country assumes that everyone is celebrating the same holiday. As I typed, the piece turned into a ponderous post with an overinflated professorial voice. And who’d want that the week before holiday fever overtakes us all?
Because of the season, the blog then moved to latkes and Hanukkah. I even found this really fun video.
But I’ve written about latkes before (sorry the pix don’t seem to be uploading).
Then it moved to
conversations with adolescents
my old haunts in Ann Arbor
Googling old friends
the joy of looking at Christmas lights . . .
And that, in a nutshell, is the the wasteful, but interesting, side-effect of being a true pantser. I write to find story — or topic — rather than outlining and finding flaws before making a creative commitment. That means that pages of prose will have traveled from my fingertips onto the computer before I know if an idea that seems good really has legs.
Often, as evidenced by the journey of writing this particular blog, the projects fizzle out quickly. This may have less to do with craft than the fact that when I delve into the meat of the subject, it turns out to be too boring, depressing or weak for more exploration. Sometimes, in the writing, I discover that a thought deserves attention and that I’m not quite in the place to make it come alive yet. I usually put those pieces of stories (or blogs) in a folder for later consideration.
I used to think that writing was almost spiritual in nature. The mental image I carried was of a woman in a 1920s garret in Paris, her hands gloved in scratchy gray wool, an espresso near her fingertips, the heavy smoke of a home-rolled cigarette coloring the darkened room’s air a bluish gray. So rapt in creativity would she be that nothing could distract her from her task. (And, of course, she’d never outline!)
Alas, in the decades I’ve been writing, I’ve never lived up to anything resembling that woman. In childhood and adolescence, perhaps, the act of penning a short story or poem carried a certain romantic aura. In adulthood, however, my creative life has been about simply showing up.
Today, as I went through the 10-15 ideas for this blog, I realized that while showing up may be more oatmeal than éclair, it works for me. It has forced me to produce and produce some more; it has nourished the commitment necessary to keep going even if inspiration falls flat.
And because I show up daily, I always — eventually — stumble upon something truly worth the effort.