Sara (my partner) has been saying for weeks that I should blog about this—this being what I wrote last summer about my struggle to write.
“I swear, it’s funny as hell,” she says.
So I gave in this morning, agreeing, maybe it is funny—
But first a bit a background— how it all got started.
Just after the Christmas holiday, Sara returned to Haiti ahead of me. And because of this, over the New Year’s weekend, she was doing what Sara does to relax. What she calls “piddling,” what I would more accurately describe as “recreational organizing.” This can come in many forms: straightening closets—
obsessively earnestly rearranging items according to color, all clothes on wooden hangers only—ordering and reordering items in the refrigerator— neurotically enthusiastically arranging jars and bottles in tidy rows, like-items soldiered together according to kind rather than rank.
(a subject for another post, perhaps?)
At any rate, you get the picture—
Over this particular weekend, however, Sara extended her reign of organizing terror to the contents of my drawers, my closets, cabinets, shelves.
Now I have mixed feelings about this.
Sometimes I don’t want my stuff touched—because in her cleaning frenzy, Sara is inclined, at times, to throw things away, pieces of paper she thinks useless but which are, in fact, important to me. On the other hand, Sara is extremely good at organizing, really good, as you might expect from someone who behaves this way for sport. So sometimes I agree to let her “piddle” with my precious possessions, but only if I can extract from her, my “everything-is garbage-gal,” the promise that nothing, absolutely nothing—not even the most seemingly senseless scrap or decades old sales receipt— will be discarded.
On this weekend in question, I extracted such a promise, and Sara came upon such a scrap—something I had scribbled on index cards—the contents of which she says I should blog about here.
But—before I lay my naked and neurotic writerly self out to me mocked and laughed at—I offer a disclaimer, of sorts—
Namely—that real writers, good writers, famous writers do indeed write about the kind of stuff I describe below. I’m thinking specifically about Natalie Goldberg, who in her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, outlines the basics of writing as spiritual practice and in Chapter 1, “Beginner’s Mind, Pen and Paper,” addresses the writers struggle to find the perfect pen, the even more perfect paper.
(And remember, as well, that this was NEVER meant to be read by anyone but me—so it’s bad, it’s raw, it’s, well, neurotic.)
So, without further adieu here’s what I wrote on 13 June 2010, what I scribbled in pink ink on unlined index cards:
When I have tried to journal recently I’m always bothered by the notebook I’m writing in—I know that sounds crazy—and surely it’s a mere excuse—but I truly believe I should be keeping my entries in another format—
Perhaps, typing them on my computer—if the paper is lined, perhaps, it should be unlined—if it’s plain—perhaps, it should be graph paper. If I write in blue ink, probably, it should have been black or green or gray—any other color than the one I’m using.
So here I’m writing on an index card—knowing that it too will feel wrong—and using pink ink—equally incorrect, I’m sure.
Most everything about writing feels wrong—doing it—not doing it—doing it in the morning, in the evening, in the afternoon—equally problematic.
Now, these index cards feel too small—not enough space—I feel confined—God knows I’ve got it wrong again!
But I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter. It’s better to get it wrong than not to have gotten it at all.
There you’ve GOT her folks—Kathy, the “Writing Neurotic,” evidence that she does indeed exist.
So laugh if you will. Mock if you must.
But, where in the name of God’s good implements of ink, does Writing Neurotic come from? Does she live in other writers? Does she roam from writer’s body to writer’s body, circling the globe, imparting authorial insecurities across the entire planet? Or does she only live in little old me?
Have you ever been possessed by Writing Neurotic? Has she come to your country, your city, house and street, forced herself uninvited into your office, taken over your desk, borrowed into to the deepest and most secret corners of your scribbling-obsessed self?
If she has, I want to know. I want to join forces with others who’ve been haunted—track her down—bury her once and for all, far from WordPress and Freshly Pressed—ban her forever from the Blogosphere!
Please note: I scheduled this piece to post yesterday before news broke that former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier had returned unexpectedly to Port-au-Prince.
To see an article from Yahoo News about this potentially ominous development, click here. To see the piece I posted as soon as we got the call that Duvalier was at the airport, click here. To read an article from CNN click here. ( Thanks to Mrs. H. over at “A. Hab.’s View of the World” for the CNN link.) And finally, to see a helpful piece from MSNBC.com, click here.
I will try to keep you updated as the story develops.
Sara was right, this is funny! Although I don’t obsess about my writing because I’m not a “real” writer, I do obsess about plenty of other things!
The more I read your blog, the more I think Willie and I are clones of Sara and you! Willie would love to get his grubby little paws on my office, but I’ve banned him from it.
Glad you were amused–and proud to be your clone, Lisa! You were wise to ban Willie from your office!
Hi, you may find my post about writing helpful:
Best wishes, John.
Thanks, John. I will check it out!
Funny? Maybe? All too familiar, for sure. There have been too many times I’ve stared at a blank screen and blinking cursor and felt exactly as you did when you wrote in pink ink on index cards. You are not alone, my friend!
Thank God I’m not alone, Terri! It’s good to have my sanity affirmed————
The “Writing Neurotic” is alive and well in New Brunswick, although she doesn’t write anything longhand any more except notes to her children’s teachers. My “WN” worries about whether readers will care what she’s writing about; whether she’s “sharing” too much; or if it’s funny enough…
Maybe if she started writing in pink on index cards…LOL!
Clearly pink ink is the secret. And use index cards and WN will worry no more! LOL
Sara was right–very funny! I’ve never tried note cards…maybe you’re on to something.
I think the neurosis of writing is just part of the process. If you were stripping yourself bare in front of a group of people, how comfortable would you feel? And isn’t writing the same way? Maybe it’s even more personal on the page, because you expose your innermost workings. I’ve often thought that those moments of feeling “wrong” are also moments of being truthful.
I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Kathryn! I look forward to reading more from you. 🙂
Yes, it is a bit like stripping naked, isn’t it! No wonder it’s anxiety-inducing!
At any rate, I’m pleased you stopped by. I look forward to reading more from you, as well. Thanks, Maura!
I grabbed my phone to check email, etc. as I headed to the kitchen for a cup of coffee this morning and was caught off guard by loud laughter. Then I realized it was my own. I have long suffered from this Writing Neurotic and can’t tell you how many pens and notebooks I have bought over the years. The Writing Neurotic has caused me much anguish and an empty checkbook. Currently I am using a Sharpie Pen (not to be confused with the markers which I also have an obsession with and often cannot leave a store until I have purchased one or a dozen) and I have a notebook a student gave me with a flip top cover with my initial on it. But I have a zillion index cards, post it notes, spiral notebooks, journals, etc. that sit waiting for me to write, not to mention the dozens and dozens of pens hiding around the place because they didn’t turn out to be that magical writing tool I was hoping for.
Kathy- good luck. If you find the perfect tools, please do share!
So glad to hear you laughed and good to know I’m not alone! Yes, it is that we hope for a magical writing tool. And don’t tell me it does not exist, cause I’m still looking!
Haha! You are not alone, missy! I read Writing Down The Bones, and thought I would give the “free writing” thing a chance, a daily warmup of fluid writing without taking breaks. I sat down with my pink Composition Notebook and a pen and went to work…for 10 1/2 minutes. At the end of my “writing session” I had covered the page with this: I hate this. This is sucky. Sucky. Sucky. Crap. I hate paper. I hate pen. I suck. Paper sucks. Pens suck.
I can whip up a 1,000 word blog post within minutes but when faced with writing in a notebook (something permanent and without Backspace) I lost my mind. Do you think that is where the aggitation or “wrong” feeling comes from? Having to put words down in ink can be a bit scary!
I hate to wish you ill, Tori, but I’m relieved to know you too struggle, too. Misery loves company!
Oh…I thought that was funny…I generally refuse to write my notes in ink..pencil is the only way to go for me. 🙂
See, it’s good to have a system you believe in, one that works, that’s tried and true. Glad to have amused you this morning, Charlie!
This is such a funny and candid post, Kathy – both of which are such strengths in your writing! I am a bit like Wendy – I don’t stress so much about the writing, but I do about those reading, worrying what they’ll think and will I keep them interested. Neurosis seems to be an inevitable bedfellow to writing…
Sara sounds like a gem.
Sara IS a gem–Thanks for noticing.
Maybe there is something inherently neurtotic about the creative process–don’t know. Actually though, it’s the fear of audience understanding that paralyzes me in the writing process itself sometimes. It’s hard for me to separate the two–though that may be an additional symptom of neurosis. Yikes!
Hah! So perfectly expressed! And, no, my dear, she certainly doesn’t just visit you. God knows Writing Neurotic has spent a lovely two years perched my shoulder whispering, “Yeah, but how do you know your ideas are even worth writing down in the first place? Okay, sure, but certainly someone will prove you wrong at some point. Maybe you should just stop right now. Besides, this keyboard sucks. You should go out and buy a keyboard cover. Well, now the keyboard cover sucks. You should just go get a new computer. Or better yet, just handwrite everything. The old way. John Faustus didn’t have a laptop when he got his seven PhDs, you know.”
I hate Writing Neurotic because 1. she’s ever present, 2. she’s right more than half the time (and the times when she’s wrong, she presents a compelling argument), and 3. she knows the literary/historical references that bring me to my knees in utter despair.
But I’m working hard to thwart her from my shoulder by writing EVEN MORE–surely the more I write, the harder it is for her to keep up, right? 😉
I love this response! You sooooooo get it, don’t you! Bless you, my friend. Sorry you have to suffer!
Great post! One that lets me relate to. The only way I get rid of the problem is by turning on some music that goes under my skin; it lets me forget the world around me, and solely concentrate on my inner most feelings, on what I want to get on paper. But this stuff never tends to end on my blog as its usually way to personal. But still great post, was a good read! Gracias
Glad you enjoyed it! I like your description of letting music get under your skin!
I know what you mean about stuff being way too personal. I had NO intention of posting what I wrote till I was talked into it. At any rate, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Hope you’ll come again–and join the discussion another day, as well. It’s great having you!
My Writing Neurotic is firmly embedded between my two ears, and has resided there for over twenty years. For nineteen of those, I listened to her, to the point of being rendered immobile with a pen and paper in hand. But I’ve finally beaten her off with a blunt instrument (my keyboard) and a blogging platform. I’ve tried convincing her to move, but she seems a permanent tenant; the only thing to be done is ignore her existence.
Good to hear beating her with a blunt object helps. She may still be a tenant, but, yes, easier to ignore. Sorry to hear you too have the 20 year curse!
I like to think of it as conjure. If you do the right trick, try the right book, write at the right time, whatever…the ideas will show up.
Excellent description, Sara! Knew I could count on you to understand, my friend! Good luck with thos exams–I’m thinking about you!
Too funny! I obsess over pen and paper, too (as if getting the right pen and the right notebook will make my writing flow and all will be made right with the world, or at least my world).
I’m sorry that you’re similarly challenged, but strangely glad to not be alone. Sorry to resurrect such a tired cliche, but I suppose misery does indeed love company–Good luck in tracking down the appropriate tools and let me know when you’ve found them!
I have nothing to say about being a writing neurotic, because I am neurotic, period. The writing is just something I do in the general context of being neurotic. But I am completely BUMMED (and neurotic) that as many times as I subscribe to your blog, I never get your posts. Never. Ever. And then days go by and I realize I haven’t gotten anything and I go to your blog and sure enough, you have been posting and I haven’t been commenting and I will stop now because I am getting way too neurotic about this.
Have to admit, I’m a hopeless neurtoic, as well. Oops, maybe you didn’t say you were “hopeless,” but unfortunately I am! It’s sad really.
So sorry about your not being notified. I will tell you that I just got an email notification that you’d subscribed–the first time I’ve ever gotten one about you, so maybe the tide is turning. However, you can pretty much count on me posting on weekdays–sometimes on Saturdays–rarely on Sundays–if that helps.
WN’s twin is alive and well in South Africa too. She gets fed pretty much everyday. And so ungreatful, you wouldn’t believe it! She’s whispering in my ear all the time how a person shouldn’t write in a language which isn’t one’s mother tongue. She has me incessantly checking the Internet for the correct use of words and phrases – and never lets me forget that, even then, I still get it wrong.
Thank goodness for friends who believe in me and encourages me. They help to muffle the sound of WN’s voice some. On the positive side though, nothing like a little challenge to make us strive for improvement 😉
Bless your South African heart! WN is alive and well there–so sorry!
I am not a “real” writer either as some else claimed above, but I do have the same “real” problems with pen and paper usage as you do! It is an issue that runs deep. As a teenager I once dubbed a journal perfect only to each time I wrote systematically tear the pages out and throw them away as I was fearful of what someone would think of my ideas and thoughts. They would just never be up to par in my mind! Seems a reasonable reaction doesn’t it? 😀
Sounds to me like you’re too hard on yourself. For example, your comment above is well articulated. It provides concrete detail. I makes me relate to you as w writer.
Maybe you have too many rules about what’s right and wrong about writing. But really the only way to write wrongly is to not write.
I DO undertand your frustration and fear, however. Most of us didn’t get helpful feedback from the folks who taught us to write. You might want to read Natalie Goldberg’s book “Writing Down the Bones.”
The only way you’ll get closer to a match between what’s in your mind and what shows up on the page, is to practice, make mistakes, try some more. Hang in there. You can do it!
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Writing Neurotic makes regular appearances here, so you are not alone. I have many, many journals only half-filled in because a book that felt so perfect one day, left a lot to be desired the next. I am currently blocked in certain writing endeavors I am lacking the perfect pen. Today, I am writing on my husband’s computer because I left mine at school, and it does not feel write. I need my little purple mini to make me feel like I am working on MY blog. I know, I know, same website. I logged in, but I think you understand that WRITING NEUROTIC just came for a visit. LOL
Ha, Ha! Love: “Today, I am writing on my husband’s computer because I left mine at school, and it does not feel write.” Glad I’m not alone. I’ll be sure to share if I notice WN slinking in your direction. Thanks for a great comment!
Ha! Now that is funny. I did not intentionally misspell right. It proves that without the proper tools chaos ensues.
Thanks for the link. I love writing, but I hate writing. As in, by hand. I can’t write a check without feeling all neurotic about the way my “f” looks or the loop on my “d”. It’s maddening.
How funny! I think I must just old enough to still have a stonger connection to what I write by hand than to what I type. I find myself experimenting to see if I generate ideas and early drafts better by writing or typing– and I still think hand-writing works best for me. I bet you’re younger than me.
Could be. I’m 41 – but I despise writing by hand. I sometimes wonder how I survived a childhood without computers!
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