On Writing, To Do Lists, and Neil Gaiman

I'll be honest: I did not mean to write. I didn't even want to. Well, that's a half-truth. I always want to be writing, want in that deep, almost primal sense, because writing is what comes most naturally to me out of all of my habits and proclivities: not talking, reading, observing, internalizing. Writing is my tool for synthesis, understanding, and introspection. It affords me both the freedom of creation and the immediacy of my own intellectual capabilities. So yes, writing is something I always want to do, but the older I become, the more worries and responsibilities I bear, the harder it becomes to divorce the joy of writing from the burden of work. Writing is hard, and tedious, much more often than I care to admit. If you love something, you should love all parts of it, right?

I mean, maybe not. That's a pretty naive view of love. Maybe it's the persistence despite the difficulties that make it truly worth it.

Eric came home and asked, "What happened to your journal entries? It seemed like you were on a roll." I try to carve the time out of every day to write at least (meager, meager least) a page in my journal. These entries contain little substance; they're mainly trite, witty summations of my day, lists, aspirations. I am no Sylvia Plath, whose diary entries still inspire such wonder and envy in me. To have spent the time crafting such fresh, crisp descriptions of her breakfast, of looking out at the sea of young faces she taught every day, of her admiration for her husband and their shared passion for poetry - how did she find the time, the focus? Didn't her hand cramp up? Where did all of her spare mental mileage come from, after a day of teaching and writing and just...living?

The clicking of my keyboard: "I wasn't trying to shame you into writing," he just said. Well, he did, but I'm not upset. If I identify as a writer, shouldn't I write? I made a to do list for today, consciously choosing to partition my numerous tasks for the weekend over today and tomorrow, instead of shoddily attempting them all around 7 pm tomorrow, when the looming threat of Monday has become harrowing and inescapable. It worked; I checked everything for Saturday off of my list. And yet, the heady glow of satisfaction is now only being fully realized as I type. Typical. Sometimes, you just need that shame.

There's a Neil Gaiman quote that floats onto my Tumblr dashboard every once in a while, but naturally, now that I want to find it, I can't. But he says something like, 'Don't let writer's block stop you from writing. A real writer is one who writes when they feel they have nothing to write about.' I once sat down to write a poem, and after about twenty frustrating minutes of mental tumbleweeds, I started writing about having nothing to write about. At the end of two pages, I stopped, scrolled to the top, read through what I had just written, and laughed. That poem ended up winning a bronze medal in a competition I entered that year. Tangent.

My point is, I have no excuse. While I often have small bursts of inspiration that end up making it as far as my iPhone Notes and no further, the majority of the time, when I sit down to write, it's simply because I want to. I would like to write a book one day. Soon. Maybe it will be a children's book, or a young adult book, or one for adults. Maybe it'll be a novel, maybe it will be a collection of essays or short stories. I want my main character(s) to be people of color, people with real anxieties and family members they don't speak to as often as they should and unsightly skin blemishes that won't go away. I want them to be confused and loud or maybe mostly quiet and neurotic. Their dreams will be like water and brambles and smoke and touch the distorted features of faces they love, streets and corridors they've walked thousands of times but can't recognize in the fading light of a setting lavender sun, muddled visions yearned for and slowly lost. They'll look at their best friend and wonder what would happen if they suddenly kissed them deeply, or stand on line at Target and fantasize about taking off all of their clothes and running screaming through the aisles containing greeting cards and fruit-shaped stickers but they won't, they'll smile to themselves and pay for their lotion and tampons because, social codes. They might become more flexible, sexually, and lazily decide to pass on the cliched freak-out because it makes much more sense that human sexuality be a spectrum, and not a light switch. Maybe they'll have fins and gills, or maybe there will be a mass migration to Venus to establish a matriarchal monarchy. Maybe they'll be depressed. Maybe they'll be ghosts, but corporeal, and venomous, and scared.

I know I need to get started. Today, every day, is a reminder of that.

How about this? Tomorrow, I'll put it on my to do list.