a book that, for now, is only for me.
I used to have rules for writing. I gave talks at libraries and schools about this. How to Break through Writer's Block. How to Beat Back Resistance. I shared tips and tricks. Set a word count goal or text an accountability partner. But really, all of the rules and tricks boil down to one.
Do the work.
When you're writing, you're alone. There is no boss looking over your shoulder. No drill sergeant barking orders in your face. You’re the boss. You’re the drill sergeant. I was merciless with myself.
I did my work.
Sometimes I confessed to my students that most of the time I hated what I wrote. Something I never confessed: I hated myself.
Writing and me, it turns out, had a terribly dysfunctional relationship. It was born out of trauma, so maybe I was expecting too much to think it could've turned into anything healthy or fun.
As messed up as the relationship was though, I did manage to hold onto it for a very long time. I wrote and revised multiple books from that toxic headspace. The voice that says If you don't get your words today, you're a failure. Or, If you sleep in or take a day off, you're a loser.
Friday, I slept in, and I did not work one bit on the book that I am writing only for me.
In the afternoon, spur of the moment, my husband and I went to see a movie. We hadn't seen a movie since the pre-pandemic times, February 2020, when we saw the big epic drama about World War I 1917. We thought about seeing the movie Oppenheimer, which seemed like an appropriately weighty picture to end our three-and-half-years-long no-movie-in-a-theater streak.
Instead, we saw Barbie.
We both loved it. A few days later we are still talking about it. How silly it was and how achingly sad. How thought-provoking and how... pink. I had barbies when I was a little girl, and I loved playing with them. Maybe not for the reason other little girls do--the dressing them up, the combing of the hair--but because I could put them into stories.
Playing with dolls was one of the ways I found to escape my terrifying chaotic little life. When I made up stories about them, the stories were for me. (Okay, I also loved dressing them up and combing their hair. It was fun!)
I am not breaking up with writing, but I am amending the rules. The rules are there are no rules. No bosses and no drill sergeants. No barking voices. Just a quiet morning (or maybe it is afternoon or maybe it is evening or maybe I've slept in)
but I am alone and having fun, writing a book that, for now, is only for me.