Karen Rivers

You don't have to write every day.

Karen Rivers

I was looking at photos someone took of the Northern Lights and it occurred to me that beyond the fact that they are beautiful, the Northern Lights look exactly like a particularly green version of an ocular migraine.  Maybe if I could begin to see ocular migraines as beautiful, I wouldn't be convinced each time I have one that I'm actually -- this time, for real -- having a stroke.   Is it possible that the distance between calm and terror is just a tiny readjustment of thinking?  

No one looks at the Northern Lights and says, "This is really making me anxious."  At least, I don't think they do.   

No one looks at their ocular migraine aura and says, "This is breathtaking!" either.

We were watching Survivor last night and the host introduced one of the players as "the woman who got up from the couch".   My son looked at me and said, "Mum, you should do that!   She got off the couch, so you can, too."  

"Who me?" I said.  I mean, I got defensive.   Anyone would. I don't have a desk!  I'm working on the couch, not just sitting!  I never just sit!   I don't have time!  

"Still," he said.  "You could do it, Mum."

I realized he wasn't criticizing me, but throwing me a vote of confidence.   Sometimes you miss love when you're looking for reasons to hate yourself, that's the thing.  I'm too old to be on Survivor though.  Plus, I'm allergic to fish so would probably die somewhere around episode 2.  "The first time in Survivor history!" the host would say.  "This is a historic moment!"  

All of our historic moments lately have been moments when we, as a world, have cringed in unison.   I'm not sure what that says about the course of humanity.   I wonder if, before they went extinct, the dinosaurs were ever just embarrassed to be a part of it all, or worse, heartbroken.   

I've been so busy.  

I AM so busy.  

I overscheduled, overestimated my own abilities, over-everythinged all the things that I can't quite get done on time, except somehow I do, every time.  I haven't had my haircut in years.   I've turned down all manner of social things to the point where I rarely have the opportunity to decline invitations any more as they aren't coming.  And oh, I've been missing the great swathes of time I used to spend walking and thinking, which, as it turns out, are crucial to getting the work done.  

Irony is still my favourite and my best.   

Someone on the Internet wrote a clickbait article about how if you want to write a book, you have to write every day or you may as well quit.   The truth is that if I don't spend a lot of time walking and thinking, I can't write a book, every day or otherwise.   The writer of that article is giving us all something to feel a thrill of superiority toward, which I suppose is a nice thing for clickbait to do.   I choose to feel sorry for him because that makes me feel even better, but the truth is, mostly I feel confused.  Why does he think that what works for him will work for everyone?

Here's what sometimes works for me:  Stopping the work to sit in the garden and take photographs of bees.  I wonder if I should sell that idea to The Daily Beast.  How well do they pay?  I could make the time.  I'm the master of creating time out of thin air, my hands waving around, my eyes closed, conjuring magic.   The Internet is nothing if not a lovely stew made from all the things we thought about while we were not getting our work done.

Anyway, what a ridiculous idea!  To write every day.  (Or else!)  I can't write every day, even though I have been.   That doesn't make sense, but what does?  

The person who wrote that article though!  He's like a song that's stuck in my head now.  It's right there, churning.   Write every day!  OR ELSE.  Someone knows him.  Someone loves him.   Someone probably thinks he would do well on Survivor.  But still, what a smug person!  So smugly telling other writers that he is special and knows better and no one else gets it or understands him and his greatness.  Oh dear.   Poor man.  He's trying to make us all quit.   Maybe he thinks that improves his chances of survival in a field where no one survives.  The thing is, your book doesn't have to be "better than" the competition.  Your book simply has to be good and true and resonant.  If no good books cross the transom, the publishers will all quit.  They'll begin taking long walks in the woods themselves, noticing things they never saw before, like the way if you look down on the path, you'll see multiple rocks shaped like hearts.  They'll realize that you can always hear birds, thousands of them, all chirping a different tune.

Also -- I seem to still have more to say about this clickbait, sorry, I thought I was done -- he seems to have a lot of anger, manifesting in hating all other writers for being better looking.   Better looking!   "That's absurd," I said, when I read it, shaking my head and laughing, but also feeling better about myself.  It was a compliment, if you think about it.  I love other writers, especially the women.  (The women tend towards being less smug, not that all men are smug, but certainly the smug tend to be male.)  We're all the same person, all of us writers, really, a borderless entity pulsing with words and felt feelings and ideas and endings and observations and compulsions and love and self-loathing.  We're usually outsiders who spend a lot of time alone, indoors or out, noticing the details.   

God, it's so miserable today, the weather.

Even as I'm writing this, rain is hitting hard against the window, pushing the hanging strawberry plants around with a sort of unexpected violence.  Last night, there was thunder and lightning.  It crackled through the night sky and into my dreams, which were terrible ones about unspeakable things that made me fear death, because what if death is nothing but nightmares on a loop, showing you who you really were?

My son is right now running endless laps around a track, his lungs no doubt aching, rain dripping from his hair.  He's probably cold or hot or both but definitely uncomfortable.  He hates running.  Let's say he's not genetically predisposed to being good at it.   The apple fell near the tree of me, for certain.  Track meets make me anxious, as lightheaded as I felt that time an owl flew directly into my face in the woods.  It's adrenalin, I think.  Mine works in an odd way.  I sometimes get weak when strength would seem preferable or more obvious.  

"I can't stay!" I told him.  "I have to write!"   

This is writing.  I'm feeling guilty though.  In one minute, I'm going to find my keys and head back up there, to cheer him on.

You know, just as I was feeling satisfied with the metaphorical appropriateness of the terrible weather, the sun came out.  It's shining on the screen now with such intensity, I have to tilt the laptop to be able to see.  I'm not where I should be.  Am I ever?   I'm on the couch.  I'm here writing this, and not the book that I'm meant to be writing.  I could be surviving.  I should be at the track meet.   I could be winning something, somewhere, somehow.   A million dollars.  A book contract.   Love.

This is a post about writing every day or not at all.   This is a long walk in the gusting wind, the gentle flickering of a migraine aura sliding in slow-motion across my field of vision, an owl disappearing into the branches of a raindrop-bejewelled tree.   This is my voice yelling, "Go!  Go!  You can do it!  Keep going!", rising above the sound of the crowd, as loud and strong as anything has ever been.