The other day Clara Parkes (The Knitter’s Review, Knitlandia) posted the above on Instagram. And it got me thinking about the writing process. From my first research paper in 9th grade on Greenpeace to my Master’s thesis to museum exhibits and policy manuals to this blog, I’ve been writing most of life. Some times it’s as if I’m possessed and someone else is writing. Other times it’s like pulling teeth and I type and delete the same sentence 50 times before deciding to clean the kitchen or bathroom. But I love writing and enjoy the writing process.
Years ago when I was working in the History Department at UALR, I complained to a female professor about the anxiety I was feeling during the thesis writing process. She said “Oh, you’re in the morning sickness phase.” And even though at the time I hadn’t personally experience morning sickness or labor, she was exactly right. The physical and emotional roller coaster I experience in writing is just like pregnancy.
Staring at a blank white screen can make me feel excited and physically ill at the same time. This is especially the case if I’m trying to write something that doesn’t really inspire me or something that is difficult. Even if I’m inspired, it can be hard. You want that great opening sentence or perfect analogy. But the possibilities also excite me! I know I’m not writing the next great American novel but the craftsmanship of writing is fun and challenging, even in an exhibit text panel or blog post.
Then once I get going and the words start flow, its like those middle months of pregnancy when you can eat what you want and as much as you want. Here’s went the real fun begins. I can’t really explain it but every writer experiences it. Sometimes it’s like I’m possessed and before I know it I’ve written 10 pages. These are the days you stay up late or skip lunch because you can’t stop. It’s just too good. It’s these moments that you wish you could schedule. Wish you could know when they were going to happen so you would have the time to write. I’ve been known to stop midway through unloading the dishwasher and rushing to my home office to get it down on paper. Inspiration has hit and I can’t waste it.
Finally you get to labor and pushing. You’ve written it and now you need to revise and polish what you’ve written before you show it to the world. You’re scared and nervous and don’t know what is going to happen next. But you’ve got hours of hard work ahead of you. And you’re tired. Can’t it just all be over? This would be a good time for a little vacation. A step away from the words so you can look at them with fresh eyes… but you’ve got a deadline! The exhibit designers needed your words yesterday or you imposed a deadline on yourself with your thesis advisor or that blog post is scheduled to go out.
Now I know someone out there is going to ask about after the baby’s born. Yes, those sleepless nights, those 3 am feedings, those explosive diapers. Oh I can take the analogy there! In the world of museum exhibits, that could be when the text goes to the designer or even after it is on the wall. After all the editing and polishing and proofreading, you can still miss a mistake or two. (Like the time I typed loin instead of lion and send it out or in an exhibit, when a dozen set of proofreading eyes missed that someone typed between instead of beyond.)
But just like kids and tattoos, many of us have more than one – despite the morning sickness, the overeating, and the labor pains. For those of us that write, we just have to do it.