Monday, March 11, 2013
All Process All The Time
Many of the times that I sit down at the keyboard and wonder what to write, what comes to mind isn't a product but the process of trying to write itself. I don't burst with experiences that must be described, nor stories that need telling, nor fictional characters that I ache to bring to life, nor even a cause to champion. What I seem preoccupied with a good deal of the time is the process of trying to be a writer at all. Or maybe it's the process of trying to be at all.
This has troubled me for some time now. For years actually. Many of them ago I wrote a poem in which I described myself as always budded, never bloomed. That was sad and melodramatic, but relates to my current process entrapment.
As a writer, I still feel sometimes like an actor who rehearses but never performs, an athlete who practices but never plays, and, yes, the flower who forms a bud but never flourishes.
Maybe I need to get over myself. Or maybe that's just the way I'm made. Either way, I am incapable, and I do not use that word lightly, of just doing something without examining how I'm doing it.
When I was a girl I ate my sandwiches in a pattern, taking bites in rows or circling in from the crust edge. When I eat my cereal now, I notice whether there is a raisin in each bite or two nuts in this bite when there may be none in the next one. When I wash dishes, I lay them out in a certain order that I observed years ago allows me to fit them in the drainer best. I never just toss clothes in a suitcase, not even on the way back when a wrinkle won't matter because they're bound for the laundry. My closet is organized by kind of garment and sub-organized by color, light to dark, with shirts hung sleeveless to long sleeve as well.
OK. Now I sound like an utter anal retentive, but I'm not entirely. I do allow small pockets of chaos in my life. One is under our deck. Please don't go there if you ever find yourself a visitor, and there will be no pictures.
But that's not the point. The point is that I wouldn't be controlling or arranging such things if I weren't paying grand attention to how I'm doing them. I'm always interested in How and also How to Do It Better, no matter what the It is, even just living. Especially that. The motivations, the options, the challenges that arise in the attempt--those are some of my fascinations. I envision how I'm doing a task just as thoroughly as I envision the task results. I'm as aware of the process as I am the product, sometimes more so. When there's trouble in the workings, how do I not notice? Right, I can't!
It strikes me now that if I'm so fascinated with how I'm doing writing, I would be more interested in learning how to do it better, when I've said here that I'm choosing to be untrained for now. I allow myself that contradiction and won't sort that one out today. Instead I share the news arising from all this: I decided the other night to just accept that I'm a process person.
I'm not the only one, either. Many writers that I've encountered are as well. They help the rest of us by sharing what they experience in their "during," which helps ours. And apparently we need that help. Many creative types tell of trouble in the process that must be dealt with to ever get to the product. So maybe process is a worthwhile topic after all.
I think I'll quit feeling sheepish now about being a process princess. Joy in the process may be all I ever get or the best I get. I can't control readers or publishers or consumers (well, maybe I can--I just don't want to be a manipulator), but I can enjoy the doing that is mine to do.
I'm still working on that. Over and over again, evening after evening, trying to choose creating over Facebooking so I'll respect myself in the morning. If I had it down, I'd be here every day spouting joyous prose with a purpose, sharing poetry with abandon. Until then, if process thoughts are what I have, then so be it.
Wait. If the examined life is the one worth living, then maybe I'm flourishing after all.