Thursday, February 09, 2006

Procrastination Station

"Conjunction Junction" was a Schoolhouse Rock song that used to get stuck in my head after watching Saturday morning cartoons. Or the song about a "hunka-hunka cheese," sung by a greenish triangle of cheddar who gleefully touted the joys of cannibalism. Procrastination Station sounds like a song that would have fit nicely into the programming - perhaps it would have a catchy couplet about why making your bed before school is better than making it twenty seconds before you go bed.

Alas, when it comes to writing, I seem to be stuck in Procrastination Station.

I can't remember not writing, in the same way I can't remember not reading. It seemed to be a permenant, inevitable part of me. How could I not want to read? How could I not enjoy writing poems or bits of stories? How could I not want people to read my poems? I think back on the poems I published in Rhubard Pie, my high school's literary journal, and I am amazed that I wrote enough to get that much material, but mostly, that I was brave enough to want people to read it.

How can it be that someone who was painfully self-aware in high school felt no worries about her writing then? That it seemed something to be enjoyed and shared without fear?

Things are different now. After college (a place that had fantastic professors but a student body more interested in cadavers than couplets), I was dry. I had written some things after my stay in Northern Ireland, because those kinds of experiences have to go somewhere, but I simply felt disconnected from that part of me. Not too mention that a degree in English Lit can make you feel somewhat violent towards the Great Works, especially, say, Henry James, and creative writing classes can leave you feeling that it's one thing to have a professor review your work, but it's another to get "workshopped" by your callow college-age peers.

Anyway, I kept writing odds and bobs, even when all my energy was drained into the Black Hole that was my time at MIT, but the idea of writing for other people to eventually read it seemed rather ludicrious. I did keep reading on my long commute, and I began to take pleasure in literature and non-fiction again.

But I stopped sharing my own writing. I wrote it, and then I hid it. It became important not to offend anyone, even unintentionally, and it was not possible to do this and maintain the truthfulness that writing, especially poetry, requires. Two summer ago, my uncle was startled to learned that I was going to Russia on a creative writing program - "You still write poetry?" - and this was completely understandable. I had folded that part of me up like a origami bird, very cleverly and oddly, so that people would not recognize it.

And now that I have a job that does not slowly consume my soul, I seem to be bombarded with ideas and people and places. I even had a Real Editor ask me for my manuscript on the strength of the one (and only!) chapter I had written.

Yes - a dream come true! But have I written it? Because if anything, you think that I would be frantically churning it out. Of course not! I've got scenes from all over the book, but it needs to be filled in and stitched together. I need to let the characters and the story be who and what they are, not try to dull them in bland inoffensiveness. I haven't finished a whole chapter after the first one. I am terrified I will end up with some kind of abomination that people will run screaming from, or worse yet, scrutinize closely because it's so awful that they can't look away.

I am sitting in Procrastination Station with a Frankenstein complex, mixing my metaphors and passing time blogging. Good heavens. I need to stop staring at the other people in the waiting room, and buy myself a ticket to the place where I won't be afraid of possibility.

And really what does it matter if my ninth-grade teacher said "If you keep reading all that fantasy, you'll turn into an engineer or a fantasy writer," or if all of Ulster is offended by my magical-realism rendering of Belfast? It does, but it doesn't. I need to write what demands to be written, not worry about what some person in Borders might think when they see a poem in a journal, or (hopefully) my book on a shelf. I should be past that. I'm not in high school anymore.

I think, though, it might be good for my writing if I pretend that I am.


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