Sunday, March 23, 2008

Giving Up, Crawling In

Today was a day I meant to get a lot of shit done. Some shit did get crossed off the list, but not the main shit, which was to get a good start on redoing an older piece of writing.

My aim is to put out another chapbook this year, and I know what pieces I want it to contain. Both of them are written, but the second one I don't like so much any more. It started off as She's So Heavy, right here on this here blog. But I'm not happy with it any more. The tone is off for a chapbook, it doesn't say exactly what I want it to say.

Not that it ever did.

It has been a long time since I've written anything that wasn't for this blog. An embarrassingly long time. And although what I was supposed to be working on today is memoir, containing memory in narrative is a fictionalizing process. The shift from long blog to short story is one I am not comfortable making.

I don't know how to do it and I find that frustrating. I feel like I should be good at this. It's words. Me and words, we're friends, I like to think. So I find myself quibbling over this semi-colon and the order of those two words. Because I know when I stop doing that, there's nothing.

First attack was to just edit the old piece. But it's too close to what I want. Starting over seemed a better idea. I wrote four paragraphs at Bridgehead, a good start and a strong finish and some garbage in the middle.

I know this is how it goes. When you've taken a break from something for this long, what comes out first is mostly garbage. And you have to let yourself do it. I've just never been very good at letting myself be bad at things.

Well, not things involving words. Sports, yes. Took boxing lessons for nearly a year, until my shins protested too strongly. I was terrible. I knew I was terrible. The coach knew I was terrible, but could see my stalwart effort, and so was kind and gentle with my spirit, though he didn't spare my arms.

Six months in, at the end of a series in the ring with him - one! two! duckduck! oneonetwo! duck! one! uppercut! uppercut! - catching my breath, he said "You know, when you started here, I never thought you'd manage a real punch. But look at you now, eh? Your feet and hands all together." His tone was admiring. Any time I showed up, I was probably the worst boxer there. I was proud.

In a different way from usual. This was hard won. Those punches, weak though they were, weren't the ones I was born with. They came from months of training twice a week, of concentrating really hard, of spending hours doing something I was terrible at, in the hopes of getting just a little less terrible. In the hopes of landing a good punch on the coach's pad, the solid thud of it telling me I'd succeeded at not giving up.

Today though, I give up on being terrible for today. I crawled into bed an hour ago. I'm going to read some Mavis Gallant, try to get inspired. I'm going to try to remember the feeling of winning something hard, the kind of pride you earn.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

i know these times. reading others can be a great inspiration, but sometimes it isn't. sometimes i have to do something completely different, like look at visual art or bake or go to a place or part of town i've never spent time in. fire different neurons. good luck with the writing.