Diary of a Messy Writer

Was there ever a writer writing within a neat house?

Was there ever a writer who looked over their screen or typewriter or notebook onto a smooth expanse of wooden floor that gleamed freshly mopped? I imagine that expanse of floor easy to test for cleanliness because it is free from toys and shoes, bags and bins of laundry. That floor contains only the furniture it needs and fresh, fluffy rugs. I imagine all surfaces dustless, which is easy to see because there are no items plopped there and forgotten; no piles of unfolded clothes, no stacks of magazines that are half folded back to the articles that were read and halted midway.

There are no backpacks slumping full of stuff that has to be sorted and emptied. There are no matchless gloves waiting to find their mates, no Lego squares swiped from the corners they fell into, and definitely no cards from holidays months past that still haven’t been put away.

No. That writer looks out over thriving plants still sparkling with the dew of their watering. That writer can enjoy the view to their backyard through clear, fingerprintless glass.  There are no dishes blocking the sink and no laundry piled almost to the ceiling. That writer has found a way to meet and enlist the aid of the writer fairy. The one that those in the know pray to exchange the dirty sock they leave beneath their pillow for an overnight zing of a cleanup. I’ve heard tell of such a fairy, but remain skeptical about making such a pact. Are all fairies good, as we tell our children? Or are there some who’ve fallen from grace, looking to make a bargain? So far I’ve resisted finding out.

Instead, I communicate to the world over my laptop that needs a dusting and a good wash cloth. (New yellow sticky: Clean laptop!) I look out over rooms that no one on a good day who loves me to bits could call clean. My husband insists that we are clean, that is, not dirty. Ok, but why doesn’t that distinction comfort me?

I can choose a small hideaway to close off the clutter. Or I can brave the airy main room that affords a panorama of every jumbled and messy pile. Either way, the collective muddle calls out: ha ha! We’re staying another day!

I’m not one of those ostrich types who can pretend it’s not there—the tissues my daughter threw on the floor crumpled into delicate balls after a night of sneezing, the kitchen floor on which I can distinguish at least 3 strange colors, the table I promised myself I would give a good scrub after the latest playdate with markers that didn’t make it onto paper.

You would never guess that I am naturally a very neat person, and that I hate clutter. I even have problems with things out of place. Something as simple as a disorganized room gives me vertigo. I’m a spatial thinker and my mental picture of my home is something that is ready for a photo spread in Architectural Digest. I’m a designer and I could create that space.

But alas I don’t. Not when I’m writing, that is, and since I want to write more than I want to do anything, I have learned to put showroom quality—or any quality above ‘not dirty’—away. It’s not easy. My second most happy thing to do is design. But I’ve got to adhere to priorities or I have learned that I turn into a semi-happy and often depressed designer who can’t find time to write.

Right now I’m settling for a happy most days writer with a pinch of weekly clutter anxiety. Top of list when I become successful is a cleaning person who can do all the things a writer fairy does, minus any suspicious pacts.

Right now I trade being a clean and frustrated writer for a messy and actually writing writer. If you are a clean writer with kids, all I can say is WOW. Excuse me while I close my jaw.

Right now, like most of us writers writing out there, I’m just winging it. I’m a five minute sort here, a ten minute scrub down there kind of person. A 10 at night food shop and 11 pm making lunch for the next day kind of person. A water the plants with bathwater kind of person. A try not to trip over the recycling and not put away boots kind of person. A filling up pages with thoughts and stories and dreams kind of person.

Here’s a great list I’m inspired by

25 ways to be a Happy Writer

Blogging is a We, not a Me

Today I learned something new. A few things actually. Today was my day to learn more about blogging. I went down to my local library and talked to the Reference librarian who happily stacked a pile of books on my table.

 I was surrounded with titles like the ubiquitous Blogging for Dummies…

Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog   and the violent sounding Smashing WordPress

I wondered for the hundredth time, what have I gotten myself into?

When I began my blog January first, it was a new year’s resolution. I just wanted a nice little corner to sharpen and prove my writing chops again before moving on to writing for magazines.

But…This blogging thing is way more than I bargained for. It’s way more than I realized it was. It’s bigger, farther reaching, broader, far more in depth, and a hell of a lot more work than what I thought I was going to do. For no pay.

Lots of work = no pay.

So why am I doing this? And what’s more, why are gazillions of others blogging doing this too?

I repeat, I repeat. It’s not for the money. Yes, there are get-richers, but like in most other sectors, they are the vast minority. This, from my short experience and from the blogging books today, I have learned.

My goal, my Mount Olympus on this quest, is Magazine writing. Yet I’m realizing that’s another fruit from blogging in almost every single way… if you are following an apples/oranges scenario.

When I used to write articles, I signed off, they went to press and voila, my writing was out there to be anonymously read by a whole bunch of subscribers and people who picked up the magazine from the rack. I didn’t have to talk to them or communicate. There was no back and forth. There was little or no commentary. Assignment done. Bang. Ka-ching$

What I learned today, the infant that I am, is that blogging is a form of social media. Well, that is a whopper to have gone over my head, I know.

I’ve been writing theblluroom for about two and a half months now, and I’ve learned a lot just by trial and error. I just learned what an RSS feed is last week. Not that I know how to use it yet.

Or, honestly, want to.

I’m sure as time passes I’ll want to and wish I had figured it out long ago. I do want people to read my writing, after all! But I’m not in this as a business venture. And yet… I’d love to be paid to write (as I’ve blogged about).

But the truth is that bloggers, the ones I have painstakingly found and love, the couple I add to my following list each week, these writers blog because they love to write.

The book said that too. Several tomes I scanned today underscored that there’s really no way to continue persistently without the passion. I’ve got the passion to write. But to blog? To persistently, consistently keep the creative spigot on? History will tell that one.

The last thing one of the blogging books said that got me was that I’m supposed to have shorter entries. I use my old format of longer articles, like I’d write for a magazine. But perhaps the long format keeps people from staying with my writing, and the last thing I want to inspire is snoring.

 sorry!

I know what I’ve liked in other’s writing, and the entries are usually shorter than mine. So, from now on I’ll give my entries a snip. I’m interested to see how that pans out.

Yet, the most important realization I had today about my blog adventure is that as time-consuming as the writing, commenting, finding and following process is, I’m surprised to say that I’m enjoying it.

It’s intriguing, this blog process. It’s honest and bare, funny and lame. It’s a lot of mommies. Who rock. And shared neighborhoods across the world.  It’s a complex, strange habitat of partially known people sharing tidbits right alongside their deepest hearts. It’s structured by these white pixel-lit squares we stare into.

 Recognize yourself?

This is how I see bloggers.

We bloggers are often not friends, but we’re intimate. We support, but not in a chat-roomy dogmatic way. Even when we are using other’s thoughts and words, we are using our thoughts and words to do so. I’m learning that blogging’s not so much about my thoughts as our thoughts.

The passion derived from a book or article are both discrete delights that I love. But what I’ve found special about blogging, what I really dig, is that in this blogsphere passion is shared and followed, and when the writer gets it right, that passion blossoms into something loftier than the original post. The comment section can become a sort of jubilant town meeting.

Blogging, I’m finding, is a we, not a me.

And I like being part of this organic, electronic being.

Called Home to Write

I used to be a writer, someone paid to write. I fell into this great bit of luck by compete twist of fate. I had moved overseas to live with a good friend who had a house that needed sitting and taking care of. He traveled a lot and he wanted the house to feel more alive. He also loved me and liked my writing and so he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to write. I had studied creative and script writing when we’d lived in Boston together. Then he moved back overseas and I went on my merry way totally unsure of where I was going. Only that I was going to write.

With this goal, a year after graduation I was happily penning away at every opportunity. I’d had a pretty good creative run in college. It was only normal to keep writing at every chance, down every turn. Then a bad break-up came and I needed a change. I needed to get out of Boston and so, after a few more bumps, I moved to Amsterdam, completely unaware of its reputation as a wild drugged out prostitute metropolis.

        G’dag schrijvers!

How I’d missed that bit of information is a mystery. I can only say that my friend was my guide and he didn’t talk about that stuff. He talked about the rich history, the farmer language, the planned layout and the canals, the Dutch way of life. He talked about what it was like to be gay in such a city. He talked about the flower markets and the bridges, the art and the Jordaan, his neighborhood. He talked about how we needed each other. So I went and met his band of friends. I met a man I instantly loved.

I was fairly despondent when I landed at Schiphol that late summer. The last thing I needed was a romantic relationship, but I did need friendship and my new Dutch acquaintance offered it. We became what you would call friends if you closed one eye, slanted your head and turned around three times. I wrote him often across the few miles of cobblestones that separated us, him in his office and me at my new dining room table, laptop balanced on my knees. For one reason or another (pretty good reasons too), most people who knew us didn’t think our friendship a good idea. Electronically, we enjoyed a semi-secret ever-going conversation that no one could touch or judge.

    The Jordaan

Then he had a friend who worked in a creative office shared with a guy who was running a magazine. That guy needed a writer immediately. This guy told that guy and that guy told my complicated friend. He showed them some of the creative writing I had sent him and voila, I was asked to come down for an interview. I met the magazine guy and he passed a stuffed binder into my hands. It was a messy press release with someone’s notes. He said, go ahead, write the story. If we like it, we’ll talk more.

So I wrote the story and there began my time with a business travel magazine, called Executive Class. I Googled it today and there’s little information. I wonder if Siebe is still running the place but somehow I doubt it. He had much broader ambitions. And me?  My experience there and why I left are subject for another time.

What’s important to me here is remembering that first break, how it was to get assignments, how it felt to pull together a story, and the satisfaction of typing the last word. I always felt a sense of accomplishment seeing my byline, even with the articles I had to write, the ones that didn’t go so well. I wrote for other magazines as well but never a big one. I thought that would come. But then life came, and sidetracked me. It’s been an amazing ride the past ten years, this life. But it has not included being published.

What it has included are many long nights when I could not stop typing although my eyes burned. It has included readings and writing groups. It has included polish, polish, revise, revise, and when in god’s name is this book going to be finished? This past ten years have included a lot of short stories and poetry, and sweeping rushes of hours diving into a work of fiction, that labor of love most of us writers long to offer.

I haven’t minded the loneliness too often. A writing life is at least half solitude. But I have grappled with the choices that took me away from the published path. I often left with much regret, wishing I had room for more than family and making ends meet. But I chose to be a wife and a mother and I can’t say I’d choose differently if given the chance again.

Image

I can say that the need sometimes grows so great that it spills over and then I have to return, the prodigal daughter. I come back hat in hand, humbled, needing to make this part of me. Although I’ve been away, it is home. This voice inside, these stories inside root me. They also need me. I wonder how many other writers dream of their characters, hear them calling, sometimes begging to be known. I know some do. I’ve shushed the pleas and said I’m sorry many a time. Yet I’ve had unshakable faith that I would come back to them, come back to the printed page that the mill of my mind churns, turns and forms.

Is this place worth the pain? I know it’s one of the most difficult—unmapped and arduous and tricky. Even if I’m capable of exquisite bouquets of words, my inventions are only as good as their capacity to touch others. Touching others is my greatest desire.

I look out at the sea of writing and wonder how this fire in my gut can find its way into the world. How can something as beautiful and as ferocious as a fire go unheeded? Twists of fate happen to me every day, but no one has knocked on my door in a while asking me to write.

Yet it’s my duty to pull the words from the concealment of my skin and convey them. That’s the true charge given to writers. I must orchestrate the voices and the stories chiming in my head. But then I have to find a way to share them. How many writers can make this 180 degree turn from solitude to extroversion? Shake hands and say hello, be present when mind wants to be dreamy.

The writer in me needs to emerge again and so I write this blog. To strengthen my voice. To let myself know that I am serious. To acknowledge my need. And finally to say, I can do this. Little by little, hopefully my voice will unify into words that carry far. And someone will ask me again to write.

Thank you to all of the other bloggers out there like, http://www.writewithwarnimont.com, http://dooce.com, http://thesenseofajourney.com , http://thepioneerwoman.com, http://candycoatedreality.com, http://tristaisshort.wordpress.com, http://www.thursdaybram.com, http://www.communicatrix.com, whose journeying that I’ve read. You inspire me. You, who planned a night of revisions but were called to tend a sick family member, you, who got pulled back by that trickster depression; you, who didn’t even realize that you forgot where you were going. Then there’s you, who finds a way to write those hours you should be washing dishes or making an extra couple hundred bucks. I send a prayer to the muses that our feet keep guiding us home, and that our sweat and tears and uncountable hours are rewarded.