Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Keeping the Pipes From Freezing

An old bit of folk wisdom I picked up somewhere advises that one keep a slow drip of hot water running through all the faucets in the house during a major freeze. That way, the theory goes, standing water expanding as ice won't cause the pipes to crack and flood your basement. I don't know if this bit of folkloric advice is true or not, but I follow it as if it were. Writing is a little bit like that. You expect that things going on down in the basement are liable to take care of themselves. However, without at least a warm trickle of expression, your internal pipes may freeze...crack...and burst.

I am one of those poor writers cursed with the memory of a few sublime experiences while laboring at my craft; this hampers our ability to partake of ordinary writing, the variety that we writers refer to as "The Work". It is prosaic, unexciting, and necessary. If you are only willing to write when you are on fire and phrases pour out of you like wine, then your catalog will not be long.

This morning, for instance, I had amassed for myself such a great number of chores to do and errands to run - some of a critical nature - that I stood on the brink of not writing at all. Then, the demon Resistance changed tactics and tried to show me the towering prose I had been allowed to transmit during exalted, altered states, and then pointed to a prophecy of what my writing today would be like - just a bunch of tired, trite cliches that would be of no use to anyone. Next, the demon Resistance throws up another barrier by attacking me physically: Often when I am approaching The Work, I feel a powerful, soporific drowsiness steal over me, unbearably intense, that will make me literally fall asleep at the keyboard. Recognizing all of these opposing forces as simply the current I have to swim against to make the daily effort to create, I'm able to float to the surface and ride the current forward. In this, there are equal parts effort and surrender. If I'm going to move forward I have to surrender to the current and let it take me where it wants to go.

It doesn't have to be some kind of finished product with a beginning, middle, or end. It doesn't have to be marketable, or even readable. What matters is that you do it. Everything else follows after that - the surrender to the process is why you are doing this at all, not because someone's going to congratulate you or compliment you or pay you. You will find that the less you write, the less you will be able to write. And even if you are diligent and write every day, you will have days on which you feel as if you're just beginning all over again. Accept that too. Strive for it. A beginner is not burdened with assumptions or wishes (as much). Just do The Work, and if you work diligently, you will eventually find that it is feeding something deep within you - something deeper than your ego. And once that benefit presents itself, you will find that it has a tendency to spread outwards towards others.


Lily Robinson said...

I write, even at the times I'm not on fire, but gee... the fiery times are terrific!

Alone in Holy Land said...

Erik, you said:"You will find that the less you write, the less you will be able to write" and how right you are. I stopped writing for a certain period of time (it was like a prolonged maternity leave) and it took me some time to fall back into the rythm of creation. And the truth is, my blog helped a lot with it, forcing myself to post kind of unclogged my sluggish literary arteries.
Great post!

Sharnanigans said...

I agree! Surrender to the process of writing and forget the ego - do it because you feel compelled to write and no other reason!
I agree with Ramona re: blogging unclogging the arteries.. hehe like that analaogy - The Great Blog Unclog! Sums it up nicely - I hadn't written much for years until I started blogging - now I cannot stop!

Katherine Jenkins said...

For some reason while I was reading your post the Police song, "Do,do,do,de,da,da,da is all I want to say to you." and then "Poets, priests and politicians have words to thank for their submissions, nothing's jamming their transmissions...but when that eloquence escapes me, their logic ties me up and rapes me." Sometimes I just want to write...do do do do do, da da da da da for two hours. You are right about writing..Just do it..whatever comes out..just do it! I love it Erik...learning so much here!

Katherine Jenkins said...

O.K.-the lyrics are a little off, but you get the point. Had to post that song on my Facebook page. thanks again for posting this...thanks for reminding me that its the process. I love that we are processing here. So great!

Anonymous said...

I agree with this. Although, being a novice in the craft, I still find it hard to accept certain aspects, but I'm getting better at writing everyday whether I feel like it or not. It's nice to know that I'm not alone on the days when I just don't want to write. But I'm always glad I did when all is said and done.

Marilyn said...

Erik...I could not agree with you more. You can't write only when you feel inspired...it will never get done. Discipline comes through repetition...daily. I am on a break right now, only because the last one was consumming me...and sometimes you have to also find the power to stop and leave while there are still words to say...to not drain the 'reserves'.

And ego...absolutely has to get checked at the door or you will censor yourself to death.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erik

Amen to writing every day! I say to myself "assume the position!" That is sitting at my desk fingertips poised on keyboard. It's the only way for me to show up every day. Then when I am writing every day I can't wait to get to the keyboard to transfer what's already written in my head onto the page. Your advice about accepting what happens when I sit down is very helpful to me right now. Thanks.