it’s all useful

graffiti of stick figure walking, nine different figures in a square, some walking in the opposite direction“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
Erin Bow

Some mornings it’s hard to get started on the writing I want to do — I have to clear out the pipes first, should do a little notebook writing, often end up just typing a little journal writing into a new document and saving it as a morning write. Do we ever go back and read those morning writings, to get a sense of the trajectory of our lives, the folds and foibles that our hormones and emotions lead us through on a regular basis, to trace where our desires have driven us to (and from)?

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Yesterday was a good day — two hours of morning writing time, an hour hike with the pup in the hills (after which, finding myself sweaty at such an early hour, I thought I had maybe done enough work for the day) , then quiet breakfast time, some correspondence work, a mid-day trip to the beach with pup and Mr (where the pup, who up until now has continued to be pretty hesitant about water watched, again, another dog who leapt and bound into the waves after a stick, decided to mimic that same action and dove into the water after her ball — I couldn’t stop cheering for her; plus, I got to dip my own self into the water, which is never a bad thing for a Tuesday), came home and gave the pup a bath, did a bit more correspondence and 2012 workshop planning, made a new batch of peanut butter-banana-parsley (wheat free) cookies for the pup, baked sweet potatoes at the same time as the cookies,  started some yogurt going in the slow cooker, had a conversation with a friend and colleague about some workshop possibilities for 2012, and finally started my taxes for last year.

A good day, overall, I’d say.

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There is the issue of generating new writing on a computer that is connected to the internet — it’s enough work learning to freewrite on the computer, avoiding or curtailing the desire to rewrite immediately (since after all, look, there’s the writing in black and white, all ready to be edited), to edit, censor, fix those misspellings). that’s it’s own practice. Then there’s the fact that it’s much much easier to do research now than it used to be. Let’s say I’m working on a piece set in Billings, Montana. Never having been there, I want the character to walk from a drugstore downtown to a gas station way on the edge of town, near the highway. What highway goes through Billings? What drugstore would she be coming out of? What gas station would she be headed to? Google gives me all these answers, and other websites easily tell me more about Billings. I can stop in the middle of writing, check my facts (at least, take the first step toward fact-checking) and then get back to the writing– that is, if I don’t get lost on some page detailing, say, Billings’ licentious history (I’m avoiding going to Google right now to find out if, in fact, Billings does have a licentious history, and what that might be). It could be (I just edited there, started with ‘it might be’ and then took out the might because I’d just written ‘might be’ in the very last sentence, replaced the might with could — there’s the break in the freewrite) — it could be a better practice to make a note of the places where I want to fact check, and run those Google (and other) searches when I’m done with the day’s writing.

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Do you think any writing is ever wasted? I tend to agree with Erin Bow, above. All writing is of use, even the stuff I never look at again. Sometimes it’s just pipe cleaning, or core dumping, as my geek-self used to say: getting out of the way all the messy stuff that’s consuming my attention, the fears and worries, the panic, the ‘who are you to be sitting down to write?’ — the shopping lists, the laundry list of anxieties, the ongoing irritations with home or family or — all of that. Getting it out of the way is good and important work. Finding just the right words for my irritation, let’s say, can come in useful later. But also, there’s just clearing the air, letting all the voices have  a say and then making room for what’s more complicated, delicate, fragile, tenuous, the stuff I’m not clear about, that needs more room to move around and grow. That’s why I do those morning free-writes: start the engine, then clean out the (and here I want to stop and find a good reference! bring it back, Jen) –what? — clean out the oil trap, maybe, the places where gunk and dust collect.

Take 10 minutes for a freewrite today, especially if you’ve been feeling blocked. Write absolutely whatever comes through your head, including, I don’t have anything to write, this is stupid, why am I doing this, I need to go shopping and need to buy tomatoes, canned ones, apples, jolly ranchers — just don’t stop. For 10 minutes, don’t stop. Don’t worry about writing anything ‘useful.’ It’s all useful, this pipe clearing, and once you get going, you don’t know what’s going to arise. Let yourself not know what you’re going to end up having written. Enter into the writing with a desire to be surprised. Let yourself, too, be ok if you’re not surprised by anything you write — what matters is just those 10 minutes, that pen on the page or fingers on the keyboard, building the muscles, reinforcing the practice. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go (into dreams? a character’s next moves? what happened at work yesterday? what’s happening on the moon right now? anywhere.)

Then, if you want, do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And again, after that. Again.

Thank you for your tenacity and elasticity, your veracity and cantankerousness, your adaptability and solid-centered-ness, your belovedness, your profoundly good heart. Thank you for your words.

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