Writing, for me, is the biggest impetus in my life to get other things done. When I sit down to write, I find myself compelled to clean my house, fold my laundry, landscape my whole back yard, or spend all day in the kitchen nourishing my family. I can point to this fact alone as proof that even without producing an acclaimed piece of work, writing has made life better for my loved ones.
And while I’m doing all of these lovely, other things besides writing, I feel guilt. No, that’s not true enough. I feel shame. Shame, because I am aware that I am only doing these things to procrastinate writing. Because writing is hard, especially when it is so damn true. And Truth is ugly, but it is also a splinter that needs to work its way out. And I’m not making my house tidy, or my yard lovely, or my family fed out of deep and abiding love for those whom I share these things with. I am doing it because I’d look ridiculous laying prone, all red faced, pounding and kicking the floor. These things may not look like it, but they most certainly are my forty-something year old version of a tantrum.
Except reading. I allow myself to read without guilt and shame. I rationalize that reading makes a better writer. I might, however, abuse this allowance.
The window ledge beside my bath tub has been collecting all of my books in progress; not the ones I’ve been meaning to read, but the ones I’ve already delved into. Some people keep such stacks on their nightstands, but I can’t sleep with that kind of unfinished business breathing in my face. It’s not that I lack proper shelving, I just can’t take a bubble bath in my study, and everybody knows books and bubbles are soul mates.
When the collection was only twelve strong, I made a New Years resolution not to buy any books until I was out of books. When the number grew to 16 I made a more feasible February resolution not to buy any books until I’d finished half the pile.
By 7am on February 1st I’d contacted my local bookmonger to order a new one. I picked it up yesterday at lunchtime with a realistic expectation of finishing it sometime in April, probably. Unless I bought more books. I surprised myself, and I imagine made some of those old friends on my window ledge a little jealous, when I finished it this morning.
If you’re at all interested in writers, or why they write, I highly recommend Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature. Most of the twenty also write fiction, so don’t mistake this as an interview with narcissism; it’s valuable insight into the process as a whole. And clearly, it is immune to Attention Deficit Disorder. It might even stop bullets, who can say? I think you should get a copy from your local book store for good measure, and good reads.