Plotting a Way Forward

The mind is malleable, so what is it you want to do with it? Train the brain to sit and write a story. To enjoy the prospect of writing, to let flow like a faucet, even knowing that at first learning to sit for even an hour, learning to focus on a subject, learning to use structure for a story will be uncomfortable. I taught my body to run. It was awkward at first, but now is the most natural thing in the world. I crave it, even when I am out of shape. My thighs feel an urgency and my mind craves that concentration and that freedom, that blankness.

That is where I want to be with writing.

I want to train myself to sit and focus and create. I want to train myself into that joy, so that it is not a burden or a punishment. Roxanne Gay said on the Leonard Lopate show that she enjoyed the act of writing–it was not a torture for her as some describe it. I understand the tortured aspect; certainly it has felt like pulling teeth plenty of times. I have commiserated with my mother and brothers on the agonies of trying to create. No more. Not because that feeling of frustration, of teeth pulling is not real and legitimate, because I do not have the luxury of finding it horrible. If you are settled in life, if you have plenty of time, if writing is your actual business rather than a hobby that your partner and friends pay lip service to and carefully sidestep in conversation to avoid insulting you yet again, then you have the freedom to be miserable. But after this year or so with my second son, after a possible third son, my work life will resume. And then it will be harder to find the time than it is even now. So train the brain now so that when you sit you can always return to the place you need to be, and begin writing.

So to, with fantasies: I do not want to engage in fantasizing. Not about who I may become, not about what might happen. To quote from Yiyum Li in the current New Yorker issue, “What one goes toward is less definitive than that from which one turns away.” I’ve watched my life consumed with fantasies. Constantly stuck in one world, I’d dream of another, one where I was prettier, smarter, funnier, luckier, more charismatic. One where my writing brought me to fore of stages, where I would win awards, where I would bump into acquaintances old and new and be able to finally establish myself as a success. Fantasies have dogged my life, have bookmarked it, have shaped it. I have let a lifetime slip away because it was safer, warmer, easier to run away in my head. And this, like working with depressive thoughts, is a matter of training. Better it would be to have a partner or a friend in this endeavor, but I do not. Also, so private and easy to hide is this past time that should I want to lie to myself or others, it is incredibly easy to do so. What is required is a cognitive behavioral therapy approach, so what I will do for myself, on that long list of things I need to do, is research approaches to CBT: should I snap a rubber band when I catch myself engaging in fantasies? Should I journal each? There is likely systems of actions to apply, so learn them, use them.

My Mantra going forward: I do not know where this will lead, but for today, this is the hour, these are the words.


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