Friday, February 10, 2012

Doomed and Accursed


I'm reading Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird chapter by chapter in the evenings. I just finished the chapter about the doomed radio station. (Or should I say cursed radio station?) And instead of paying attention to the words on the page, I'm thinking can't she find less offensive words to communicate her point? She is, after all, a writer. The radio station is all the head noise you think and hear that distracts you from being able to focus on the story that's forming just under your conscious mind when you're writing. All that noise stops a writer from hearing the story and transcribing the narrative. It sabotages the writing process. 


I've never noticed that I do this in my writing.  (Maybe that's because mostly I write when I feel inspired, rather than with Mary DeMuth's BOC [butt on chair] technique. I apparently have been ignoring every other author giving writing advice to budding writers to write every day whether the muse shows up or not. You know them, those unimportant authors like Stephen King and Natalie Goldberg who were generous enough to give advice to people like me who largely ignore it.)

At any rate, I think I do fairly well with focus. In fact, I usually get perturbed — but don't fuss — at my kids for interrupting me with things like, "Hey, Mom, did you buy more apple juice this morning?" while they have their head in the fridge and are about to discover the answer all by themselves. They try to bait me with their fighting with one another, too. And don't even get me started on Adrian's rapping into a recording mic in the next room. Did you know it's impossible to rap quietly? It cannot be done.

Anyway, if I fussed, it would be even more of a distraction, so I ignore my own kids for the sake of writing.  Instead, I stay true to my muse and keep my BOC and write on. So I'm feeling OK on this one. (The writer is OK; the parent clearly is not.) So I conclude that I haven't had much trouble with the radio station in my head.

Until now.

Until now, I wasn't even aware that there was a radio station, much less a doomed one. I think I was already doing a pretty good job of tuning it out, at least while I was writing. And now I can't even do it while I'm reading, much less writing. 

I make the assumption mid-chapter that Ms. Lamott is trying to teach people like me techniques for recognizing the noise that's keeping us from hearing the storyteller within so we can stop the madness. Instead, what I'm learning is how to hear it.

I'm reading her pretend scenario that starts with a perfect writing morning that clicks right along splendidly for about 3 and a half minutes, then gets totally off track with a random thought of so-and-so writer who stinks but just went to print and is starting a whirlwind book tour. That thought leads to wondering what would it be like to be interviewed on the Tonight Show anyway?, which obviously leads to what am I going to eat for lunch because I don't fit in any of my cute clothes that would be appropriate for an interview like that -- a burger's totally out. And what was wrong with Mom the last time we had lunch anyway?

And the whole time I'm reading about techniques to stop this madness like animal sacrifices (I think she was kidding) and breathing techniques and putting your brain in the corner for a time out for wandering, I'm thinking how is she staying focused on her writing while she's trying to be a good transcriber of the story which is of the doomed and accursed radio station playing that would thwart good writing in every other instance?  In her story the accursed radio station is the hero! How can the real story be about what happens to subvert the real story?  And she's writing it well, by the way, because I'm totally getting it, and my head is about to explode like dynamite whose fuse has been lit, and it's too late. My only hope is that the explosion will unearth a gold mine, but it probably won't.

I understand about the cursed radio station now, thank you very much. I'm a good learner, Ms. Lamott, and you are a very effective teacher.  But I think something went wrong, terribly wrong.  I think I've turned on the doomed radio station and cursed my writer within.
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