Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Getting The Job Done

By Martha Reed

I have these fabulous vintage metal kitchen cabinets and the only excuse for keeping them is that I can use magnets to stick pictures and articles up all over them and make a sort of living inspirational collage.

Most of the pictures and articles are about artists and writers who say something particularly pertinent during an interview; something that strikes a chord with my current work in progress. Once a month I pour a big cup of coffee and I go through the collection and winnow them down and throw the old ones out but there are a couple that have been displayed so long the type has faded to gray and the highlighter has turned tan. The collage has even attracted certain notoriety among my friends who make a beeline for the cabinets whenever they come to visit to see what’s new.

I believe my cabinets have mutated into an exterior bulletin board for my ongoing internal dialogue.

Last weekend I added an article about Nantucket artist Joanna Kane. Joanna has the kind of striking face that makes you swear you knew her in college, but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. She has just switched from painting decorative furniture to abstract canvas and I think what she says about painting can also apply to creative writing:

“To get to that surprise I need to walk in the dark for a while. I don’t know where the painting is going, and I have to be fine with that.”

That was one of the hardest initial writerly tools to learn, to trust yourself and your writing enough to follow it blindly. Remember that marvelous feeling? The A-ha! moment when your first draft finally knits together and the complete story is revealed?

“In art school they told us that we wouldn’t mature as an artist until we were 50, and I think they said that to weed out those of us who weren’t serious.” … “But I happen to believe it’s the truth. When you’re young you wait for the surge of energy to create something, but at my age you just work. You don’t wait for inspiration.”

I think you have to be middle-aged to truly appreciate this statement. Youth is too exuberant to appreciate the stamina of grinding the work out. And yet there is a beauty, a satisfaction in reaching the grind it out stage; I’ve eliminated the peaks and valleys of useless enthusiasm and just get down to work, every day. There’s no more nonsense, no more distraction, no wasted idle time. My desire to write and my energy level are in harmony to just get ‘er done. Nowadays, if I stay up all night or put in ten hours on a good day I get a text hangover; but if I stay with writing a little bit every day, strong and steady, it’s pretty amazing what can get accomplished over the course of a year.


Annette said...

How true, Martha. Sitting around waiting for the muse to decide to show up is such a waste of time. These days, I sit at the computer and write and if my muse wants to be involved in the project, he just better get his butt in that chair with me. Because, it's going to get done with or with out him.

Anonymous said...

What did you call it last night? Butt glue?

I don't think newbie writers want to hear it, it's supposed to just fall out of the sky, but you're right. It's all about putting your butt in the chair!

If you do the time, you get the crime?

Joyce Tremel said...

So true. If I waited for my muse to show up, I'd never get anything written. I think the more you force yourself to write when you don't feel like it, the better you get at it. I've learned to set a deadline for myself and it really helps when I've been goofing off instead of writing.

Anonymous said...

“To get to that surprise I need to walk in the dark for a while. I don’t know where the painting is going, and I have to be fine with that.”

I LOVE this quote! I think it applies to much in life, not just art.

I feel, right now in my life, I'm pretty in the dark. But if I stay with it and trust, I'll get to that light, eventually!

Annette said...

It's bum glue, Martha.

I just went back into my archives and found an old piece I wrote about this subject two years ago.


In case anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...

You're right, and the longer you walk in the dark, when you look back on what you've already done and accomplished, the brighter the light.

The best part is though that you get used to the dark and it doesn't scare you anymore!

Anonymous said...

It's a job. You do the job every day, whether you feel like it or not, whether it's easy or not, whether you want to or not. Because it's your job. A great job, sure, but it's work. A hell of a lot of work!

And on that note, let me just share that I put DIY#2 in the mail to my editor this morning, so I've got a month off - hah - to catch up on all the work that didn't get done while I was writing.

Love the concept of bum glue, btw.

Joyce Tremel said...

Congratulations, Jennie!

Take a week or two off before you start any strenuous house cleaning.

Anonymous said...

I vacuumed a room today. Then I looked at the other rooms, though "Nah," and put the vacuum away. No worries here that I'll overtax myself on housework.