Monday, October 8, 2012

The True Test is in the Doing

Wow, the Rainbow Chronicles are looking sad as fuck lately, aren't they? Two posts in July. Five posts in August. One in September! One! Inside, my soul is dying. I’m totally failing my role as the narcissistic essayist if I’m not inundating the Interwebs with all my thoughts and FEELINGS on at least a weekly basis. My man E.B. would not be proud.

I’d like to say that I’ve just been so busy chasing my rainbow lately that I haven’t had time to post, ha, HA. Or, we could talk about how I haven’t had an internet connection for about a month. Apparently, one of those helps when you’re trying to, you know, WRITE ON THE INTERNET.

But hmmm...that doesn't really excuse the lack of posts in July or August. Anyway, I’m a terrible blogger, blah blah blah, etc. etc!

In the meantime, with all the non-blogging, I spent a week in Cape Cod last month, and have been doing all the reading I apparently do when I’m not spending hours dicking around on tumblr, reblogging photos of macarons and cats and yoga poses. (But seriously: tumblr! Neat! I like it!)

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about writing, which is not nearly as good as actually writing, but I suppose it’s a start. One new trick I’m doing is writing on my phone notepad every day, writing really silly things that probably no one should ever see, but I’m a glutton for embarrassing myself, so here’s an example:

So yeah, mostly just rambling weirdness, but at least it's keeping me from tweeting every thought that runs through my head. (But seriously: twitter! Neat! I like it!)

I also read Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing, which is just jam-packed with great ideas that I should really do, and not just think about doing. I posted about it on my tumblr last week, speaking of how much I love tumblr. It’s short, so I’d like to repost it here.

Conjure the NOUNS

Ray Bradbury, in his book Zen in the Art of Writing, recommends that writers put down a list. Lists of titles, long lines of nouns. He said that “These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

His list went something like: THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE DWARF. THE ATTIC.

Lots of circus themes. Lots of old people and creepy shit.

He said he would run through his lists, pick a noun, and then write a long prose-poem-essay about it. As he was writing, this THING would turn into a story. Brilliant stories, as a matter of fact, because he is—was—Ray fucking Bradbury and of course they were brilliant.

I decided to give it a go. What would be on my list? I had a few ideas, a few NOUNS.

Things that were on my mind, that were “hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”


So far I have written about the air mattress and the dentist. Both are a little creepy. Both started as a poem-prose-essay thingy, and both ended as such.

It’s hard to be brilliant when your NOUN is AIR MATTRESS. And when you’re not Ray Bradbury.

Still, I love the idea. I’m gonna keep trying it.

“Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness,” wrote R.B.
Now that this idea, to conjure the nouns, has been planted in my head, I can't stop thinking about it. As I'm locking my door when I leave for work in the morning, I think about it: THE STAIRWAY. THE APARTMENT. THE MAN ON THE BICYCLE. 

So that brings us to the next aspect of R.B.'s advice: the doing. The actual writing.
The seemingly obvious tactic a writer should take in order to produce great creative work: A writer should write, duh!

He wrote: “You have been working, haven’t you? Or do you plan some sort of schedule for yourself starting as soon as you put down this article?

What kind of schedule?”

When I read this, I felt so sheepish that I actually put the book down and looked around, as if I’d just been caught naked at work or something. The cat stared at me, yawned, and rolled over. No one was there. No one cared that I haven’t been putting in the work!

Nobody but me, that is. So I went on to read:

“Something like this. One-thousand or two-thousand words every day for the next twenty years.”

Planning for the next twenty years feels juuust a bit daunting, but ok, R.B. I can write one-thousand or two-thousand words every day. Watch me!

So, last week, I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual, vowed to myself I wouldn’t hit the snooze button for the entirety of that 30 minutes, and went to sleep blissful, ready to wake up and write something genius.

Well, it’s nothing genius by any means, but I did sit down to the computer, and I wrote something.

At the end of his essay, R.B. really hit me over the head with why it might be useful to take his advice. He wrote:

“Let me assure you I speak of all these things only because they have worked for me for fifty years. And I think they might work for you. The true test is in the doing.

Be pragmatic, then. If you’re not happy with the way your writing has gone, you might give my method a try.

If you do, I think you might easily find a new definition for Work.

And the word is LOVE.”

I’m not always the best at following advice, but I guess now is as good a time as ever. So, I’ve started my R.B. Training, as I’ve decided to call it, right now, this very minute as I type.

He’s right: ‘The true test is in the doing’—so I am done with the restlessness, the days and weeks pass by that I create nothing.

I’m ready to put in the work.

So every day, I plan to write some more. It might just be a run-on sentence typed on my phone about pigeons. It might just be a silly little blog post like this one.

But sooner or later, maybe something wonderful will appear on the page. I only have about a thousand words left to go.

Every day.

For the next twenty years.

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