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The Writing Journey: Where to Begin?

My friend Steven dropped by my cubicle, while he was in town, and returned a book to me that I forgot I’d loaned him. It was Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, which I’d enjoyed even more than The Artist’s Way. It decorated my desktop for a bit, then hitched a ride home in my backpack. I pulled it out, just now, and riffled through the pages.

Hmm, I thought. Blog fodder. A writer’s quest; a writing journey.

I could sense Fred and Prunebutt rolling their eyes. Fred’s part Muse, part Assassin – joyfully eradicating Edna, the Inner Critic. Prunebutt likes to think he’s my Muse, but he’s really just an orange-ish fuzzball that sounds a lot like Paul Lynde on a bender and likes to taunt me till I toss him into the dryer and start writing. You take your Muses as you find them, and that works both ways. They’re stuck with me, too.

In the first chapter, Julia Cameron points out that, “Writing is like breathing, it’s possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.” We learn, in school, not to color outside the lines, not to innovate a turn of phrase. We let the stultified verse of Hallmark and the stiltified prose of academia be our yardstick, and we try too hard to be worthy. Writing should be play. Writing should be our guilty pleasure. Writing should be our last act of defiance.

Image: Quotation from The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron

The brain “enjoys the act of naming things,” Cameron writes. “Picking words is like picking apples: this one looks delicious.” Most of mine are crunchy, though some slip in, smooth as chocolate. Others are acidic, though few are ever bitter. I like to let those ripen on the tendrils of my mind, to soften, and possibly sweeten, with time.

Write Along with Me

In each chapter, there is an exercise, or “Initiation,” and this one calls for me to blather on for three full pages – she’s very specific, wants 8½ by 11 paper, three crisp sheets of it – and I’m to “keep [my] hand moving and simply hang out on the page.” Naturally, my first thought was, “How many words is that, if I’m typing them online, in a blog?” According to http://750words.com/, it’s – well, 750 words.

I was watching True Blood, the other night, and got a good laugh out of Pam, one of the older vampires, explaining that something involved, “Blah, blah, vampire business, blah, blah.” It struck me funny the way the Peanuts cartoon adults’ speech, “Wah wah wah WAH, wah wah WAH,” always did. So much of what we say – and write – is filler to caulk over the discomfort the creeps out of the crevices when there’s dead air. It’s hard to just “be whatever and however you are at this moment.” I’m pretty sure I like this exercise less, now, than I did in middle school.

But if you insist…let’s Begin.

right-to-write-01b

If my ankle had a butt, Monday’s physical therapy kicked it. I asked the PT, “If I were a ballerina, how long would it take me to get back to work?” And the answer was a disheartening six months or more, despite dancers’ unusually high pain tolerance and several hours’ of PT daily, starting somewhat sooner than mine did. I don’t like my shoelaces on the best of days, so it’s no wonder I was eager to drop ballet when I was a kid. My ballet teacher’s motto was, “Beauty must suffer.”

I’d rather be hideous.

It’s not the broken bone that hurts, at this point – or so they tell me. That’s mostly healed, though it will continue to grow and strengthen for over a year. It’s all the muscles and tendons and ligaments that have stretched and popped and pulled and they’re not happy. But I’m happy to be out of a cast and able to move and walk at all. And I suppose it’s a good sign that I’m moving fast enough, and normally enough, that I tend to forget I absolutely cannot go downstairs left foot first. If you hear a puppy yelp at work, it’s probably me, wincing in pain and trying not to face-plant on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

Now that I’m out of the boot and moving slightly faster than a turtle, there’s another new hazard: Before, people would hear the scritch-clomp-step and either give me a wide berth or offer help. Now they barrel onwards, lost in thought, as if assuming I could nimbly hop or pivot out of the way. The ankle’s not about to do any of those things, just yet. I’m not above putting my arms out, protectively, to give them a shove – and so far, no one’s taken offense. But it’s funny even to notice this, because normally we just dodge and weave and navigate our way through a sea of bodies and never give these things a second thought.

One of the exercises they have me do, in PT, is to make the alphabet with my foot. Overachiever that I am, sometimes, I’m already working on learning to make each letter backwards, so that I can write air-messages to my husband and son from across the room, and see if they can decipher them. I still can’t count, though. I am pretty sure I did thirty-two clockwise circles, and only eighteen counterclockwise, of the twenty each I was told to do.

I noticed an odd scent nearby, just now – an earthy sweet with undertones of decay – and my first thought was to sniff my own socks for tell-tale signs of Zombie Foot. My toes smelled fine; turns out it was my tiny little yellow roses nodding off and turning brown around the edges.

I’m grateful for a sense of humor. Mine, and everyone else’s. It’s how we get through the day smiling.

I miss the daily hailstorms in Lake Tahoe, where it felt like someone atop the mountain had opened a giant refrigerator, and you could feel the cold air rushing down the ski slopes to meet the air that was still warm with summer’s sunshine. Where bears came out to pick bugs from rotting logs in the chilly breeze. It’s hot and muggy, now, in Houston, and I am tired of short sleeves – eager to wear sweaters and crocheted scarves, even if the “cold” here lasts about three days, spread over three weeks. I hope, by then, to resume my walks and take more photos.

Speaking of crochet, I suppose that I had better start on the pink pig for Relay for Life. My committment to my goals is still strong, but the timeline for that much weight loss may be overly ambitious. At least my doctor was pleased to note that I had lost weight, and thought it showed – not just that the numbers had gone down. I’ve resigned myself to making the pig, regardless. I know that a few people were hoping, from the start, that it would come to that. Maybe I’ll just auction her off online.

And, if I’m really honest about this, I was bored with the owl squares and the oversized sock I started while in Tahoe. The pig’s starting to look like fun.

By the way, I made all the graphics in this post, trying to get a jump-start on Monday’s Facebook Creativity Challenge (never ask of your minions what you’re unwilling to do, yourself, right?). Please share them (along with a link back here, of course) anywhere you like. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.

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8 Responses to “The Writing Journey: Where to Begin?”

  1. Rasheed Hooda
    Twitter:
    says:

    I remember Right to Write from a few years ago. I remember the several notebooks I filled with 3 pages at 3:30 in the morning, just like now.

    I must find a place, a way to get back to that. in my effort to minimize I may have lost that treasure. or it may be a part of the single box that is stored at my friend Noor’s garage.

    It’s not 750 words and I wouldn’t want to hijack your blog for it, but it feels good. Thanks for the reminder.
    Rasheed Hooda recently posted…Creative Blogger AwardMy Profile

    • Rasheed, real people (as opposed to spammerbots) get to “hijack” my comments if they feel inspired. Look, Pete Laberge has been known to write novels in the comments section, and I used to have quite the reputation for doing the same – unapologetically, I might add! You just go right on and write, here, if you like. And do hunt for your past writings, if they’re calling to you. Don’t mourn the loss if they’re gone; it happens. By the time we run out of words, we probably won’t remember that we did. Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of them. Create something new.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The Writing Journey: Where to Begin?My Profile

  2. Rummuser says:

    It is precisely to avoid being rammed by barrelling others that I use a cane. Within my home, I don’t because even my dog knows that it will be near fatal if I trip over her and fall.
    Rummuser recently posted…Adoption II.My Profile

    • I am NOT ready, psychologically, to go there. But you know – and now I’ve had a taste of it – that the cane may be more of a signal to others than an actual necessity. Until recently, I never imagined. And for the imagining, I suppose I’m grateful. Anything that might make a character come to life on the page is good. For me, I am NOT ready to stop climbing trees. In fact, I’m determined, now, to do more of it. Before I reach the point where a fall will be near fatal. I hate these little reminders from the universe that we’re NOT going to live forever. It’s okay knowing – but there’s no need for the cosmos to smack us in the face and insult us with reminders.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The Writing Journey: Where to Begin?My Profile

  3. Patricia Stoltey
    Twitter:
    says:

    Coincidence — I just ordered The Right to Write yesterday. In the meantime, I think I will revisit The Artist’s Way which I’ve had for years. Maybe I’ll even do the exercises for a change….
    Patricia Stoltey recently posted…Do You Know Your Nominative From Your Objective? … by Lois WinstonMy Profile

  4. Peter Wright
    Twitter:
    says:

    Lovely analoguous link of writing to breathing.

    My eyes drifted over the bits about writing, enjoying all of them but not feeling inspired to comment. Then faltered over the parts about the ankle, I do sympathise and wish you a full recovery and less painful PT sessions.

    The word crochet caught my eye and stopped it’s movement as effectively as if I had sat on the instrument you use to create those squares, socks and pink pigs.

    I may have missed or forgotten references to you being a crocheter in previous posts, but I find it interesting that you are helping to resurrect what I thought was a forgotten art.

    A member of the middle of the baby boomer generation, I remember in the 1950s to 70s most women of my mothers generation either knitting, crocheting or embroidering almost every time they sat down. Of course that was before the days of mobile phones and with very limited TV coverage.

    Interestingly, in the last year or so I have seen an increasing number of women knitting or crocheting in hospital waiting rooms, some of them quite young. Several have mentioned that both crafts are becoming more popular.
    Peter Wright recently posted…Adversity, Faith and GratitudeMy Profile

    • I’m glad I was able to lure you into my trap somehow, Peter! Thank you for your good wishes on the ankle – it’s a bit daunting to think that full recovery can easily take a year or so, but that’s made slightly more bearable knowing it would take a professional dancer nearly as long. And really, I do see progress every day. It usually follows a day or three of setback and odd pain, so I’m flooded with relief to note that overall, it IS getting better pretty quickly. (It took four months in a leg brace after I tore my MCL in my 20s, so I don’t know why I expect this to be better or faster – there’s probably at least as much damage.)

      As for crochet and knitting, both have grown immensely popular. Also, there are studies that show it helps to stave off Alzheimer’s and depression. Men are picking up the hooks and needles, too. In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, a man joined last week and said that he’d started after having a stroke, and was now looking to learn how to make lace. It works better for me than meditation alone, because I cannot sit still and still my mind without growing incredibly bored and impatient. But crochet is very relaxing and helps to pass the time – and with luck, you wind up with something useful, attractive, and fun.

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