As an aspect of our internship at Busybird, we are supposed to write three blogs a year, but I am lucky if I post even one. We have been told that the writing can be less than beautiful, and we are free to write about almost anything related to the process of writing or editing, so what is my problem? Why can’t I write one of these things?
Every now and then, in a fit of enthusiasm I work up an idea (sometimes several) and sketch out a set of notes. And then … Nothing. My idea goes into the folder with all the other fabulous things I have never written. And never will – unless I can find out why I can’t write these things.
Through good writing and bad, light winds and toad stranglers, horrible writing and worse, I post a 500 word tutorial response every single week when I am studying. Heck, I once wrote 500 words on the pleasures of junk mail. Well, it is pleasurable for the snails that hang out in my letterbox. They love to gobble up a bargain. Pizza, soft furnishings, washing powder, they tuck into the lot. Keeps them satiated so they don’t go out and … There I go again!
What is so different about this? Although the difficulty of writing is a part of its messy charm (and I’m sure I do it wrong), I should be able to write a blog. In theory.
But in practice? Well, that’s another thing. Was that the washing machine yodelling? And, some toast might be nice … See what I mean? And toast always wins; especially, if hot peanut butter is involved. But these shameless diversions, when I should be tucked up at my desk writing, are only little dragons.
In her book, Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall, Barbara Turner-Vesselago describes the fears that skulk around the perimeters of our consciousness as dragons. And she advocates turning around to look at them … to see what these things are that sneak up and whisper bad things, muttering and chattering in voices so subtle that they seep beneath our consciousness. Their sulphurous murmurs wither our ideas and poison our writing before it ever reaches the page. While there are many dragons, as many as there are reasons not to write, when I turn my head I see a legion of the brutes.
The Dragon of Writing Badly is a nasty specimen. Even now I can feel its stumpy legs wrapped around me and its long claws digging in, and I am utterly intimidated (despite knowing that it’s okay to write badly). Everyone does it. Yes, even you over there in the far corner, hunched over your computer screen sneering at every word. I know your first drafts are real stinkers.
One way I’ve found to wriggle out of this dragon’s scaly grip is to try to imagine a less forbidding critic. Instead of the stern-eyed parent, the monstrous teacher with a red pen and a twitchy ruler, the jeering bullies at the back of the classroom or the unattainable role model, perhaps you might write your piece as you would to your best friend. Or, you might write to your dog, your cat (Miss Mittens purrs whenever she delivers a critique), the possum on your windowsill, or the boy next door – even, the one you yearn for in the night when the doona is snugly pulled around you (I’m writing to a cute boy from my misspent past. No, not that one – the boy I used to trade insults with).
Actually, I don’t know if this is just me, but it is so much easier to write when I am supposed to be doing something else. Especially, if that something else is something I know I should do, but don’t want to. Like my taxes, or getting ready for work. Writing, for me, seems to have a tantalisingly perverse element; it so much more blissful if I absolutely, unquestionably and unequivocally should not be doing it. And, those stolen moments are utterly dragon free.
Next time: the most unlikely, sneakiest, worst dragon of them all.
– Assistant Editor