September 3, 2010

Should I Be Building a Mountain?

What I’m Reading Today: More delightful Stoner.

Have you come across Rumpus Radio yet? Great, as is everything that comes from the Rumpus. Not to mention that Stephen Elliott, who created the site/phenomenon, is a great writer, teacher, and person. I just listened to Rumpus Radio Episode 8, where co-hosts Stephen and Nato Green interview Steve Almond. Their talk ranged ~ compellingly and touchingly and entertainingly ~ from writing to Stephen’s love life.

Stephen said something that really struck me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:
Five or six days a week, I send out a daily Rumpus email. Originally this was supposed to be links to various things. Fairly quickly, it turned into whatever I was thinking about, and then I felt guilty because I wasn’t working on a book. Then, at some point, I thought, you know, this is what I’m working on. This is all I care about. I spend two to three hours a day writing a literary email about whatever I’m thinking about, whatever’s going on in my life, and I no longer have any interest in putting out a book. That might change, but I’m feeling it, you know what I mean? It’s completely satisfying creatively. I think it’s similar ~ not financially, but creatively ~ to putting a book out. I’m getting so much out of it, more so than I ever did with a book.
This left me with equal parts elation and desperation.

I’m elated because yes! someone’s said it, and said it in a positive light. “You know what? You don’t have to feel guilty about this. You can be fulfilled by all kinds of writing, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s about your creative fulfillment, not about all those other things.” Because writing this blog is fulfilling to me. As is the professional writing I do for my day job. As is helping other people with their writing. And I also think all my other writing symbiotically feeds my creative writing.

But, on the flip side, what if it is also about those other things? In other words, what if I’m writing these things not to fulfill a creative need but because I “should”? I’m thinking promotion rather than art? What if I’m writing it because it’s easier to write a blog post than to write the book? What if I’d rather muse about what another writer said than to confront the emotional and craft issues I need to to do the thing that is at the center of it all? What if I’m being chickenshit?

In other words, what if I’m frittering away my creative strength building a series of small hills, instead of the mountain I was meant for?

Questions of the Day: What do you think? Does all your other writing help or hinder what you were meant to write?


Noel Hammatt said...

Oh how well I know the feeling... knowing that three different books are competing for my time, each with it's own pathway, and none with a lock on my attention, yet I find myself blogging and writing about myriad educational issues--all the while wondering if I should be feeling guilty about the slow progress on my "real" writing projects.... You have captured the tension, and the possibilities of release and pleasure in the poetry of the present!

Tamara said...

Three books! Go Noel! Thank you so much.

I have immense respect for educators. They are the saints of our society.

Good luck on your run for the Board!