My (So Called) Writing Life

writing life 003A couple of months ago, I went to a friend’s birthday luncheon. It was her 40th and it was at a restaurant and I wore nice shoes so it was a “luncheon,” not a “lunch” thankyouverymuch. At said luncheon, I was introduced by two different people as … a writer.

Both times, I cast sideways eyes to see who the introducer was talking about. Both times, I froze a little and attempted to get into my glass of iced tea.

Me? A writer? Am I a writer?

I’m not suffering from a case of the impostor syndrome – the psychological phenomenon in which a person cannot take in their accomplishments and see them instead as luck, timing, or a fluke. It’s just that I’ve been a movement teacher for years and that’s how I see myself. As I write more and even publish some, my view of myself is running to catch up with what I’m actually doing.

Oh, that’s some happy crappy. It’s the impostor syndrome.

So when a new writer friend, Zsofi McMullin, invited me to participate in a blog hop about my writing life, I had to laugh and say “My what??” and then take a breath and say, “Yes, this is actually something I do.”

1. What am I writing or working on?

My blog. After teaching movement and mindfulness for a dozen years, I started Focus Pocus: The Magic of Inquiry and Intent in 2012. My original idea was to write about the focus for classes every week, and provide links to further information and resource. It’s turned into a way for me to tell stories about my own practice in and out of the studio. What started as a way to share more information about anatomy and the body~mind connection became a new way for me to connect with people, to encourage them to take their practice out into life … and to play with the craft and art of writing. I love doing it. It’s challenging and mysterious, scary and exhilarating. And I keep finding more things I wanted to write about. Which then led to…

Non-fiction essays. I have a file of essays in various states of done-ness and/or disrepair that I continuously add to and work on. I have a vision for a book (or an e-book, or a live performance piece, or something) that is sometimes in clearer focus than others. In the meantime, I have submitted essays to sites that I enjoy and respect…and sometimes they get published! Which is tremendously exciting. But even when that doesn’t happen, I love the cocktail of discipline and inspiration and solitude and connection that writing offers. So I keep doing it.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It doesn’t if I’ve been reading authors that I admire. If I’m reading Anne Lamott or David Sedaris or Claire Dederer, I tend to write lame imitations of them. Honestly, though, everybody has their own voice, things that only they can say, and everybody who chooses to write (or speak or dance or teach or make art or, well, live) has their preciously unique style and message. In Buddhism, it’s called dharma: your purpose or calling, the medicine that only you can bring to the world. Everybody’s got their dharma, it’s just a matter of finding and following it. When the stars align and I get out of my own way, I write entertaining pieces that might provoke thought and inspire inquiry. I’m a sucker for a good metaphor so I look for ways of connecting ideas and images to make the confusing and confounding less so. And if what I write is only entertaining, that’s fine with me, too.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a teacher at heart. I love to connect with people and share my own slapstick stumblings and banana peel dipsy doodles. I’m also an extrovert who needs to spend about half of her time alone so writing balances nicely with my teaching. I love the music and movement and magic that a group of people moving together creates. So I go out in the world with my funny pants on and dance around and invite people into their bodies. Then I come home and go into my dark little office den and create and connect in a different way. I love doing both ~ coming at the same thing from totally different angles.

4. How does my writing process work?

My process is in process.

I have little pads of paper all around my house and in my car. When I have an idea or see or hear something that catches my attention, I write myself a little note. “Serious Play,” “Act Your Age,” and (inexplicably) “Wear More Orange” are all recent ones. When I sit at my computer, I sort through the scraps of paper and pick one that feels like it has some juice in it and see what happens.

I’m a believer in Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft.” I blat out whatever comes then leave it for a day or so and come back to it. Then I delete the pedantic crap (or some of it, anyway) and get to the story. After all the deletions and changes, it doesn’t look like a mess thanks to the wonders of word processing technology. Which is lovely for someone who is just a teensy bit obsessive-compulsive.

I don’t write every day which seems like breaking a Writer’s Law. I’d love to be writing more, but I’d also love to be working on my teaching more and doing more yoga and gardening more and traveling with my husband more. So I do what I can do. Instead of writing at the same time every day, I make appointments with myself to write throughout the week. I set aside two days a week that I leave open for creative work and then slide other writing time into the other days when I can.

Sometimes, I have an idea brewing, I sit down and it flows out like melted butter.

Okay, that happened one time.

Sometimes, I look at my blank screen and decide my nails need filing.

As I recently wrote on my blog, I take the Be An Ant approach and figure if I keep writing, little by little, after a while, I’ll have something. Maybe what I’ll have is just a pile of not so-terribly-good essays and maybe I’ll have a book. Either way, I’m enjoying my (so called) writing life.

***

Now I’m passing the blog hop baton to one of my favorite bloggers who will share her stories and process! Check her out. You’ll love her, too:

Melissa Sarno is a writer and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Communications at Cornell University and received an MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University. After a few years working in television production, she made the switch to children’s media. When she’s not writing elegant prose for preschool toys and games, she writes novels and short stories. She’s currently seeking publication for her first novel and is at work on her second. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com and tweets at @melissasarno.

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2 comments
  1. joy said:

    I know…. After the Elephant Journal publishings I had to start calling you my writer friend who teaches Nia instead of my Nia teacher friend who is a great writer 😉 love you tons!

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