Please, Can I Have My Gold Star?


I’ve got this big writing project that should be well under way now that I am over six months from the classroom and more than a few months into  my Year of Writing (YOW). Instead, I’ve been staring at a lot of blank screens and notebooks whose pages look too pristine to sully. I write a blog entry or a to-do list and it feels like an accomplishment some days. I do copious research on whether it is better to journal in long hand or if perhaps I should invest in a journaling ap like Day One, and I get so lost in the research that I fail to get a journal entry written in any format.

I’m convinced that 90% of being a writer is fighting the urge not to write, while simultaneously longing to get your fingers on a keyboard and thoughts out of your head. In fact, if building split rail fences were my passion, I’m kind of curious about all the ways I might try to keep myself from firing up the chain saw. Or, alternatively, firing up the chainsaw and cutting everything in sight but the logs that would make those split rail fences.

Worse yet, people ask how the writing is going and if I am able to resist my immediate inclination (to stab them with a sharp but non-lethal object…say a spork or particularly inflexible bread tie), then I say, “It’s going,” and I quickly redirect by asking them about themselves. Often, they become sidetracked at this point and I am left in peace. Then later, I feel guilty because they were nice enough to ask and sometimes I can’t even remember what their jobs entail.

Z is not so easy to redirect though. He’s got a razor-sharp memory and he can read me too well. Also, he is my champion, and a person should never, ever discourage her champion.

When we parted company at the airport two weeks ago, I told him that my goals for our time apart were fourfold:

1)   writing

2)   exercising

3)   cleaning out some of my stuff from my parents’ house because  no one should have to navigate around the specter of the spelling bee trophy I won in 1978

4)   and most importantly, really enjoying my people and my hometown while I’m in the same zip code.

So today Z and I talked on the phone briefly, and he asked how my daily goals were coming along. I had two choices: lie and tell him I was doing them all religiously and daily so he would heap  praise on my head, which would feel good briefly until I remembered it was undeserved, or I could tell the truth. You know my record on successfully lying, so truth seemed like the best option.

“The writing is so-so,” I said, but then added brightly, “I’ve nailed a couple of the other goals though!” He asked which ones, and I told him that I was definitely enjoying myself every day (managing to maintain calm, appreciate the sunsets, the snow, etc.)

“And the other one?” he asked.

“Reading,” I said.  “I’ve been reading every day, reading myself to sleep every night. It’s nice not to be so addicted to the computer.”

“I don’t remember ‘reading’ on your list,”  he said. “Was that a goal?

We wasted precious long-distance moments trying to figure out whether reading was on the list or not.  What was that fourth goal? Finally, Z says, “I thought you were cleaning out your stuff or something. Wasn’t that the plan?”

Oh. Yeah. Weeding. Not reading. Oops.

But I really do have that “enjoying myself at home” goal mastered now. Maybe it’s better to do one thing well than four things in a mediocre fashion.

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