Writing but Not Writing

It’s been almost a year since I decided to write a book. I’ve lied a lot. No, not in the book, but in telling people I am writing one. To be a writer I know I need to write more. I’m just not good at it.

I feel like every student I’ve ever taught must feel.

I sit to write, and I get distracted. Compulsive, too. My inbox has to be empty. My Twitter feed has to be “read.” My notifications have to be noted. My apps have to be updated.

This is a problem.

I know what all those writers say, giving advice–playing with my psyche.  One of the things that fills my news feed is quotes by authors. At one time I thought that was a good idea.

Just this morning:

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.” ~William Faulkner

“The discipline of the writer is to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him” ~Rachel Carson

“Teach yourself to work in uncertainty.” ~Bernard Malamud

Oy! I thought if I got writing tips from published writers I’d find some tips for writing more and writing better. Mostly, I just get depressed.

I don’t like uncertainty. Who has time to be still? Is my art teaching or writing? (See that conflict with time?)

I know one thing:  I understand my students more. And I haven’t even asked them to write a book. I’ve only tried to get them to care about their writing. Play with words and structure and meaning. Create something that brings a smile because it works for you.

It’s harder than it sounds. I know because I practice it every time I sit to write. And the struggle doesn’t away.

I’m not giving up, but there are days I want to.

Like a week ago when I asked Heather to read my introduction and give me feedback, and she shot me through the heart. Not on purpose–I know that. But sheesh, I was not quite prepared to be so vulnerable.

I imagine much like a student or two who’ve read my purple pen and wondered “What the heck? I bled to write that.”

This morning I got up early to write.

I wrote.

But not a bit in this so called book.

This is a problem.


5 thoughts on “Writing but Not Writing

  1. Erika B. April 23, 2014 at 10:00 am Reply

    “I know one thing: I understand my students more. And I haven’t even asked them to write a book. I’ve only tried to get them to care about their writing.”

    And through this, you have succeeded! Your students are writing more (depth) than ever before…and I do not need to be in your Texas classroom to know that. It’s evident through the blogs they create, the book trailers, etc. So, as you are asking them to love what they do…take your own advice, friend! Love it. Learn from it. Grow WITH it.

    I cannot wait to have you autograph this work of beauty. XOXOX


  2. bbutler627 April 22, 2014 at 7:53 pm Reply

    It is a problem but you’ve identified it so that’s a step. Would it help if I said sympathize on all counts here and would love for you to keep at it. Lie to me and tell me you will? I bet it will be a great book!


  3. spillarke April 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm Reply

    One word, one sentence, one paragraph, one piece at a time. All the writing we do adds up and no one can tell your story in your voice. You do well describing your how the scary work of writing leads us to avoid it. Sounds like you are learning a lot about yourself as a writer. Be gentle with your writer self and give her time and space to try out ideas.


  4. motherofallreaders April 22, 2014 at 8:37 am Reply

    When I work with my pre-service teachers on writing their final project paper, I tell them to do lots of free writing. Write whatever comes to their mind and just write, write, write. They have a general idea of what their topic, purpose, and audience is, but just the act of writing what comes into their mind sometimes leads them into another direction. I think it’s the perfectionist in us that won’t allow us to do this very often. Allow yourself to just write. I know that something wonderful and useful will come out (at least sometimes)! You are very passionate about what you do and that’s what needs to shine through. Good luck!


  5. Gary Anderson April 22, 2014 at 8:09 am Reply

    I wonder if saying to ourselves, “I’m writing a book” affects our creativity. Maybe that context creates a mold of expectation that we then try to fill.

    On the other hand, if we write what we want to say right now, more from the inside out, maybe our ideas will find ways to connect with each other and become what they want to be, like maybe a book.

    What you wrote today is important. As always, thanks for the insight.


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