Writing Practice

I'm excited to get the chance to write Writer's Boot Camp. I think the original proposal was from 5 or 6 years ago. I am finding it so rewarding to stop and think about my own writing. I love to think of it as a practice. There is something calming and centering about that. Writing as practice. First, the idea that you have to practice. That just like playing an instrument, you don't expect to do it well every time or even most times. You're always pushing yourself and stumbling through new pieces. So there is the idea of just putting in the time, whether it's struggling through a problem set in math, or trying various experiments in chemistry, or taking a first stab at an idea you have for a painting that captures the gray, still air of today, Tuesday, June 28th. There is the knowing that what you first write won't necessarily be what you wanted or needed to say, but it will be a way into what you want and need to say. There is knowing that today, or even next week or next year, you may not get into that deep, still, calm place where you are finally able to tell the story you've been dying to tell. But the point is not the end goal. It's the practice. It's the process. It's, as Littlefinger says in Game of Thrones, the climb. 

I just found mold on raisin bread I bought last week. Wally made his own sandwich today and of course didn't notice the mold. I was pleased he had made his own sandwich. But then I had to call the school to ask them to intercept the sandwich. They said they would.

Today is his last day of 2nd grade. A half day. I thought about picking him up instead of letting him take the bus home because of this idea that on the last day there should be some big hoopla around dismissal. Traditionally on the last day much of the school congregates for lunch at the nearby playground. We have done that the past two years, but we have been down there a lot lately for various end-of-the-year events and I don't necessarily think Wally needs one more. But obviously I'm on the fence about it or was or needed to talk through and rationalize what is really a minuscule decision (to have him take the bus home this half day, as usual, and hang out with neighborhood friends rather than a goodbye-to-school friends afternoon). Minuscule decision, much labored over, means to me that the decision is part of a process of working through. Working through doesn't sound like a technical term but it is the one Freud used in 1914, Remembering, Repeating and Working Through (Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psychoanalysis II).

One thing I did want to was take a picture of Wally with his teacher. I have this pressing memory of the picture my mom took of me with Anne Smith on the last day of my second grade. We found Anne cleaning up her classroom. I had stayed after in the library waiting for my mom who was the school librarian. There was no idea back then of a big last day celebration for 2nd grade. There was maybe a stop at McDonalds for an ice cream on the way home and a dinner that was something you especially liked. Stuffed shells we liked back then. Either that or tacos. The pool would be open and maybe Heather would come over and we'd go for a swim. 

Do you know the artist Sark? She writes this outrageously uplifting, tap-into- the-power-of-the-universe type stuff. I have to say I love her advice about how we shouldn't set out to have a great time or fantastic, mind-blowing time (I can't remember her exact words here) but rather to have "a time." That feels calming and centering, too. Wendy Mogel has the advice in one of my favorite parenting books (I've mentioned it here, and here) about allowing things to be mediocre. Just hanging out with your kids and having a mediocre day. That advice came before the onslaught of pinterest-perfect days posted everywhere seeming to point fingers at our mediocrity and it's even more important to take now. It would be fine, it would be great, to have mediocre days. For people as lucky as we are, mediocre days are pretty damn amazing. 

I meant to write about the other kind of writing practice, the one that builds on the isolated activity of practicing. That is the habit that becomes ritual, that accrues significance through its repetition, through the steadiness of applying yourself to something daily, through the stead-fastness, the almost sacred aspect of a practice, where you commit yourself to the hope for incremental improvement, to the kind of growth that comes only from that level of devotion. 


  1. Congratulations on the new book project! I can't wait to read it!!

    I love the idea of having "a time" as opposed to having "the most amazing time ever!" Especially because having "a time" allows for spontaneity, the unexpected and unplanned, the space where magic enters and memorable moments are created. Carefully orchestrated events rarely achieve this, and more often involve the letdown akin to a New Year's Eve party.

    These thoughts on writing practice and the act of practicing, "the habit that becomes ritual" speak straight to my heart. Your last paragraph captures it so beautifully. The steadiness and steadfastness. "The almost sacred aspect of a of a practice, where you commit yourself to the hope of incremental improvement, to the kind of growth that comes only from that level of devotion."

  2. Yes...I like the idea of having a time. It's like approaching something without expectations, and then you always end up having a better time anyway...

  3. Thank you! Yes - allowing for spontaneity - having a better time most often with lower expectations, as you say, Bearette. Sarah the New Year's Eve letdown is perfect short-hand for the over-hyped event. "a time" is open-ended in a way that's inviting...not bounded by what you thought you needed to get out of someone or something...
    Thanks to both of you for allowing me to re-think the path of my "practice" such as it is, based on your input and feedback.

  4. I love so much about this! I cannot wait to hear more about the boot camp- making time, understanding the process, this sounds so...refreshing. Taking pause to write and to think about writing. Yes!
    And the moldy bread and overthinking the smallest decisions and Freud's "working through" and the beauty of mediocrity and the sacredness of practice. You've nailed it- all of it. I love the way all of these moments and thoughts become a way of reflecting...the self-reflecting of remembering your own 2nd grade teacher, the self-reflecting of parenting decisions, the self-reflection needed to write...yes.

  5. I can't believe I haven't answered yet! THank you thank you...not totally but partly off the grid these days in Massachusetts

  6. Amie - thank you thank you and my apologies for not responding more quickly. No excuse really, or none worth elaborating on. Your comment was so restorative to me. Knowing that you understand that desire to make time, understand the process, turn inward and reflect. You are so adept at the stillness required...I hope you are getting that time, too.


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