11 April 2010

A is for Anna or Airplanes or Awe. B is for Books or Buttons, or Birds... P is for Photos, or Palwaukee....

Ever since I saw Courtney, and then Charlotte tackling the "Alphabet: A History" meme, I've thought about doing it myself.  I thought it might be a way to get back into blogging, a framework to help with the discipline of writing regularly.   But, even thinking about topics for the Alphabet meme, or any other blogging schemes  (for instance, actually writing about the books I've read for Emily's TBR challenge) didn't seem to provide the structure I needed.  I couldn't find the right way to start.   What would I write about for "A"?  After all, starting at R, or B, or Q, may have been okay, it seemed to be more of a procrastination method that I could think of many other things to write about than something to write about for 'A'.   So instead of writing, I pondered possible blog post topics. And dismissed them all. 

My maternal grandmother, Anna,  was a possibility, but it seemed a topic both too large for a single blog post and too much in the fog of childhood memories to be much of anything unless I worked on it for a very long time.  I wrote a short story about by grandparents 25 years ago.   Instead of writing the blog, I pondered how I could rework that story into something worthy of submitting for publication.  But I didn't do anything but think about it.  The story isn't of a quality that I would want someone else to read, but there was a lot of emotion surrounding the writing of it that I can't bring myself to edit it. 

I thought about writing about airplanes:   My first time in an airplane.   Riding in a sailplane with my father.  Musings about my grandfather who trained to be a pilot during WWI.  My son studying astronomical engineering and deciding to pursue a career in the Air Force.  

My first trip in an airplane -- at age 12 and without any family -- was an adventure, but not all that spectacular.   Flying in a glider was one of the most peaceful, meditative experiences I've ever had, but I'd be terrified to try to pilot one.    I've learned recently that there used to be a photo of my grandfather on the wall of 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. Maybe sometime in the future, when I'm in the Chicago area, I will venture out to the 'burbs to see if it is still. I wonder if it is at all like the photo that my father kept on his dresser throughout his life, the one I would stare at and dream up what adventures the smiling pilot in what looked like a Red Baron outfit might have had. I should find the photo before I write about it, I thought; it could be P is Palwaukee.   I could write volumes about my conflicting feelings about B's decision to join the USAF, but that decision is his, not mine and I know he wouldn't be comfortable with me writing about it.    Airplanes as one blog post?   I don't think so. 

I thought about changing the biographical theme of the meme to one of ideas... A is for Awe, A is for Achievement, A is for Advantages, A is for Anger...   I quickly moved away from that idea.   What would B be for?   M?  Z?  It sounds like it could easily be preachy, or cloying, or just plain boring. 

Thinking of Z, I thought I could start at the end of the alphabet and work to the front.  Maybe then I would think of something for a post titled A is for ....   But, what would I do for Z?  Z is for... Zero.  I came up empty.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zzzzzs.  

And so it is when one wants to write but can't.   You come up with all sorts of reasons why you don't want to tackle something, or why you want to write about something else first, or you get tangled up with thinking that someone else won't like it, or you haven't all of the information or knowledge, or experience to write about it yet.   I started a novel in November, participating in NaNoWriMo.   I laid out the sketchiest of all possible outlines, but it was, at least, a plan to guide me.   But I've gone months without working on it.   Sometimes, when I'm stuck in traffic, or my mind wanders from a task at work, or I'm out taking a walk, I listen to the voices of my characters.  They have told me some amazing stories, hinted at things about themselves that I have yet to learn.   But, they have yet to inspire me to sit down with the manuscript after several months.  I haven't abandoned them, but I seem to find ten other things to do when I plan to write.   Perhaps I'm not disciplined enough.  Maybe I'm afraid that I'm not good enough to write anything others would want to read.  Maybe I just don't want to take on such a challenging, difficult thing that might consume more time than what I want to give.   

The thing is when you want to write and can't, the cure seems to be that you just have to do it.  Not quite ready to pick up the novel quite yet, but I want to write more often.   Even if it is painful to do so.  Even if I want to distract myself with a hundred other things.   I want to find some sort of writing mojo, to stop talking about, or thinking about writing and actually write. 

And so I will begin with A.   A is for ....   My next post.


Courtney said...

Oh, you put into words so beautifully what I struggle with, every day! I want to write - I find tremendous joy and peace in it - and yet there always seem to be other things to do. I have really had to reframe the way I think about it - I will probably never make my living as a freelancer, so why write? I write because I LOVE it, because it makes my life richer and better and if noone ever sees one bit of what I do, who really cares? It's all about harnassing that pure writerly joy, really - I look forward to your next post.

Emily Barton said...

Oh, this is so, so familiar. (Notice, I haven't posted on my TBR challenge books, either. And it's MY challenge). I'm wondering if I shouldn't, at some point, do a big, "Week's worth of TBR challenge books I never get around to posting on"). I haven't been able to begin the alphabet meme, either (even after I discovered Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, which is obviously the book that initiated it. Actually, to tell the truth, after reading that book, I think I became more intimidated). "A" is just such a difficult letter. It brings to mind two people I love, so how to choose between them? Then I thought, I will stay away from people's names, otherwise, it will be nothing but one person after another. But then, I got stuck on "a," couldn't for the life of me think of anything that was not a person, while posts about both people I knew were effortlessly writing themselves in my head. And I'm back to thinking, "I ought to include people." Sigh! Maybe your next post will inspire me.

I do write, though. Like Courtney, I decided a few years ago that I write because I HAVE to. I really don't have a choice. I just don't necessarily write stuff that I want to share with others (or with more than one other, in the case of letters), and that's okay.

Cam said...

Courtney, your comment is inspiring. I love to write too, so it is a conundrum when I find it difficult to do so. I certainly found that writerly joy in writing this post and the one that followed it. Not sure why I struggle with getting started when I am pleased with the end product -- when I finally feel that it is completed and ready to be released into the wild.

Emily you could work through all of those people -- you don't need the structure of the A is for, B is for... Get those writings out of your head and on to paper (or screen).