Writing practice: resisting the delete button

Recently, I’ve been inspired to write, but I haven’t been writing — I’ve been reading about writing in coffee shops, and dancing to Bachata remixes in my bachelor apartment.(Yes, I’ll do anything to procrastinate!) However, I think the combination of reading and dancing is loosening me up, so that I can write from a place where I’m not afraid to fall flat on my face.

I wasn’t sure what to read, but a writer/editor friend of mine had some great suggestions on her blog, commatology, in her fabulous post concerning writer’s block. Honestly, I’m not sure if that is my affliction, but I made a list of the books she recommended anyways. I was able to find Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Pantheon Books, 1994) by Anne Lamott, and Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambahala, 1986) by Natalie Goldberg at the public library, and then stumbled upon Room to Write (Penguin/Putnam,1996) by Bonni Goldberg at a used bookstore. I’ve barely cracked Room to Write, but it’s filled with writing exercises, and quotes that I love. But have the courage to write whatever your dream is for yourself. –May Sarton; One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds. –Alfred Kazin; and A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.Frank Capra, are just a few that are resonating with me.

Lamott writes about ‘shitty first drafts’ and ‘perfectionism’ –Allowing myself to expose a shitty first of anything is nearly impossible because I strive for perfectionism. (However, I’m learning to let go, and letting myself be the follower on the dance floor.) Her words made me realize that it’s okay to write really crappy stuff, and that I need to stand up to my ‘oppressor,’ the perfectionist within. The parallels she draws between writing and life are beautiful, funny and bang on! And Goldberg (the Natalie one), also highlights the correlations between life and writing, and the importance of practicing and composting.

Tonight when I sat down, I decided to just let the words pour out. I’m practicing. I told myself I was just going to let it happen — I wasn’t going to listen to my inner critic, I was going to resist the urge to hit ‘delete’. Prepare yourself — what follows might be a really shitty blog post. It’s all me, uncensored.

bell

“It’s been a long time since I’ve sat myself down to write. There always seems to be something more pressing — the dishes, the laundry, a run, a chat with a friend, an overdue email. It needs to stop — I’m not going to let my voice dry up, even if I’m not sure what I’m saying has any relevance. What’s that sound? Oh yes…..the eggs are boiling — better tend to that….maybe I’ll just turn them off and come back here to write. Wait….okay, they are simmering.

My inner voice has been talking a lot of shit these days. You’re not a writer. Everything that comes out is so constipated. You’re just on the surface. Reach deeper. You need to read more before you can get anything out. Do you think anyone is really interested in that? That doesn’t sound right. Yawn……you’re putting me to sleep. It’s so loud in my head; I want to scream SHUT UP!!! Okay, I did it. Now what?

Silence….just keep your fingers moving. Whatever comes out, comes out. And now I will be deleting all this, but at least I am writing. I’ll give myself ten more minutes to come up with something witty, something that I can use to hook you in. What I have been learning is that I’m not alone. Even great writers think they can’t write….sometimes. They sit down with loud voices in their heads, and write crap….sometimes a lot of it. This makes me feel better.

And I know that I can write. Inside me I know there is this honest, somewhat naive voice, that has fresh things to say. Stuff that might make you laugh….or cry….or go hmmmm….or think really?! Yes, it’s inside. They’re my stories. We all have them. It’s just finding the right notes to strum, the right moves to make, the right stuff will come to you, but first you need to silence that inner critic that says you can’t.

The other day I found out that my mom reads my blog. That made me smile because I know I don’t share enough with her. This can be a way for her to get to know me better. But what got me was that the thing she remembered was how I said I was going to blog everyday in February and then I didn’t. It’s my shortcomings that she remembers. Me, too. I still beat myself up for that one. What was so hard about blogging everyday for one month? And February only had 28 days? Why couldn’t I do it? I couldn’t do it because I love the delete button too much and I’m a perfectionist. Or at least, I try to be. When I notice a mistake….usually my own….I cringe. I need to get over that.

Anne Lamott says allow yourself to write shitty stuff. You will write a shitty draft. So, my blog posts are my shitty drafts…..at least the first time I publish them. Sometimes I read over old posts and then I go in and make changes. Sometimes I’m so tempted to just delete them. But then I think, just let it be. This is you….flaws and all. And who is really reading it?! If they can’t deal with the flaws, they will move on. Sorta like life and those you let come close to you. If they see your flaws…..those parts that need some polishing….those parts we try to hide…..and they still want to get to know you, then they’ll stick around.

Okay…..it’s been over ten minutes. Time to wrap this up or should I keep going on this tangent. Not really sure where it’s going, but the words are still coming.

Maybe what makes us really wonderful are those flaws. I think so.I look for those flaws. I don’t like shiny, sculpted things….they seem too unattainable. a fantasy. I don’t like fantasies. It has to be believable. I have to feel like I can connect. Connecting  is important to me; it’s what keeps me going. as an introvert, maybe this is strange….I guess I like to do it on my own terms, but either way I want to feel a closeness. I want to relate. we all want to relate and see ourselves reflected in someone else’s eyes. It’s this connection that says I see you, I know you, I hear you. We all want to be heard; we all have an inner desire to be heard — to live our stories, to share our lives, and to be known. Sometimes I don’t share. Is it the only child syndrome? I’m not sure, but i like to be on my own, I like to have the freedom to do my own thing, I like my own space. sometimes it’s lonely, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes i want to be loud. I want to be able to talk to anyone. I look at my extrovert friends with green eyes; i wonder what it’s like to be in their shoes. To always know the right thing to say? To never appear awkward. To never be at a loss for words. ”

So, that was it. That was about 15 minutes of non-stop chatter on the keyboard. I’m not going to leave you with any promises. Maybe I will try one of the exercises from Room to Write next time or maybe a reader (if you stuck it out till the end) will give me a topic. Hint, hint….let me know what you think. I want to connect.

5 thoughts on “Writing practice: resisting the delete button

    1. Oh, I’ve always known I wasn’t perfect, but I wanted to keep that on the down low ;-). Kidding aside, it is refreshing to let go and allow myself to make mistakes. We all do it. Being vulnerable isn’t easy….I’m brewing a new piece for my blog right now. Thanks, Gaylene….xo

  1. I can relate to so many things in your post, but I’ll start with this one. If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed (on “spring has sprung”) that my mom’s pen name when she was a teenaged poet was Leona Dare and that I named my inner critic Leona. That’s no accident. Long ago I made the same connection you did between my mother’s critical voice and my own internal critic. I cringed when I read that your mom read your blog and commented on your failure. It reminded me of the day my first baby was born. After labouring 36 hours, I finally pushed the most amazing, beautiful, perfect little being out of my body. My overweight, short, imperfect body. I was euphoric, exhausted, blissed, proud. Mom came to the hospital to see her new grandson, and what did she say to me? “Stand up straight.” I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was so deflated. Why did she have to focus not on the amazing thing I had done, but on my shortcomings?

    When I said in my post that I’ve realized Leona is trying to help and protect me, I was talking, in part, about my mom, that critical voice that is equal parts her and me. It wasn’t until my forties that I figured out Mom isn’t seeing my shortcomings when she says those things. She’s seeing her own. She actually thinks I’m pretty terrific, and she says so to everyone she talks to. Everyone but me. (To be fair, she’s a lot more able/willing to tell me now – now that she’s in her 80s and my gray-haired self doesn’t need it so much.) And because I’m friends with your mom, I can tell you she’s the same. I’ve never heard her criticize you. She tells me how amazing you are and how much she admires you.

    It’s such a relief now to be able to laugh at Leona and tell her to go proofread the internet while I write. I have a writer friend to thank for this liberating shift. I was telling her how hard it was to silence my inner critic, and she suggested I stop trying. It was her idea to give the critic both a name and a voice in my writing. When Leona has something to say, I let her say it. I talk back. Then I move on. The trick is to just keep writing.

    I applaud you for having the guts to share your uncensored self. Keep writing.

    1. Thank you for relating and sharing your story with me, Leslie. I find it’s often the ones that love us the most that are our worst critics….without even knowing it. I’m still struggling with my Leona, but I do know that she means well, and thinks the world of me. I haven’t given a name to my inner critic, as I feel she takes up too much space most of the time, but perhaps, I should look at her with fresh eyes, and let her speak her mind — I’m strong enough to talk back now.

      Leslie, your encouragement (even from my first post) has meant so much to me,and keeps propelling me to explore and write on. And now that you blog, I have something to reflect upon or simply enjoy on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing your gifts with others, and being the wonderful person you are.

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