I am so tired that I am drifting off in the midst of my task, so tired that I can barely write a sentence that has a beginning, middle, and an end. Last night it was hot for the first time and since my body is tuned to sleep only when the room temperature is between 68-72 degrees, I did not sleep. Where was I again? Oh yes, the task. The task is to do something writing-related between the hour of 8pm-9pm tonight, no matter how fragmented and befuddled. It’s 8:37 now.
Stephen King has said, “Writing = ass in chair.” You just have to sit there consistently and put words on a page, regularly, for a long time. This is a concept I’ve been struggling with my whole life. As a child, I was talented at music, but never wanted to practice. I was a diligent meditator and it enriched my life and my inner world immensely, but one day I stopped doing it every day and I slowly became a stranger to that part of myself. I toyed with making a go of it as a writer in my early twenties, but feared that I lacked the self-discipline to do the whole ass-in-chair thing. Well, the stakes are a lot higher now. As it turns out, I too will one day die as all beings do. And there will never be a perfect, protected time to write. It will always be woven in and through other things. I fantasize about having a writing room with sun streaming in through two huge windows, having as my sole work of the day the task of feeling the world into words, having at the end of the day the satisfaction I feel only when I have written something to a point of new understanding. If I want to have that even for one day a month or one day a week or one week a year, let alone a more substantial part of the time, there is only one way to get there: ass in chair, no matter how tired or bored or frazzled I am, no matter how many sleeveless onesies need to be purchased for a certain pig-tailed dervish.
I went to the dentist this past Monday (it’s my vacation. Aren’t you envious?!) and it turns out I have 4mm pockets in a lot of places and even two 5s. This means that I am in “THE WARNING ZONE” as an ominous poster on the wall read, the zone where I am in danger of all my teeth falling out or needing thousands of dollars of periodontal care, or both. The dental hygienist was as politic about this as any oral health professional I have ever encountered. “You need to floss every night and brush your teeth after every meal. And let’s get you in for cleanings a little more frequently” (aka more than once per presidential term of office). I have been treating oral health kind of like I treat writing: it happens when I am well rested and in a good frame of mind, which is to say not often. I brush every day but floss only here and there and like I just said: not a lot of dentist visits. But now I have to floss my teeth EVERY NIGHT and if I don’t, pain and suffering and poverty will dog me the rest of the days of my life, so saith the dentist.
I surrender. I am almost 33 years old, the Jesus age, and I guess it’s time to learn to do some things on a daily basis. It’s 9:11 and I’ve outlasted my hour by 11 minutes and of course I have lots more to say now that I’m on a roll, but instead I’m going to go downstairs and cut friend eggplant into tiny pieces so that E can eat them for lunch tomorrow. Then I’m going to fall into bed if I make it back up the stairs. But first I’m going to floss. Then I’ll come back tomorrow night and try again, one hour at a time.
Here is an Onion article on this subject that is just so true and sad and funny.