This time from Ursula K. Le Guin, an interview at Interview.
If it’s tl;dr here’s my favourite quote:
There’s always room for another story. There’s always room for another tune, right? Nobody can write too many tunes. So if you have stories to tell and can tell them competently, then somebody will want to hear it if you tell it well at all. To believe that there is somebody who wants to hear that story is the kind of confidence a writer has to have when they’re in the period of learning their craft and not selling stuff and not really knowing what they’re doing. It’s like being adolescent for years and years after your adolescence.
And now I’m back to work!
Read this: “Writing Begins with Forgiveness” by Daniel José Older. It’s wise and well-said.
It’s kind of a relief to know I’m not the only one who thinks this way. This has long been my complaint about NaNoWriMo, that a word-counting race to the finish too often ends in shame for those of us whose brains don’t work that way. There is never just one way to do things, friends. As I’ve said in this space before: if writers write, then I reckon I’m a thinker, and writing is just a by-product of that.
Of course, I have also suspected I’m really a dancer, or a musician, or I would be if my talents matched up with my inclinations. I think there probably are some writers who compulsively write all the time, because they love the act of writing so much. Me, I’ve got to take time to turn over the mulch in my mind, to delve and cogitate and be present in the world.
Do it your own way. That’s not an indulgence; it’s a necessity. That’s how you find your voice, and how you make it art.
Last night I dreamed that I’d invited everyone in B’s class – plus parents and siblings – to drop by our house for tapas after school. The trouble was, I didn’t know how many people were in his class, or how many family members they had, or how many of them were actually going to show up, or what kind of food they liked. I had to make tapas anyway, because I’d committed to it, and so most of the dream was spent racking my brains for things that would be good to make and would serve lots of people (I calculated that we’d need about 5 gallons of tapenade. I was going to make it in one of those big orange Home Depot buckets, as if it were grout).
It was only after I woke up and was staggering downstairs in the dark that it occurred to me that this was an anxiety dream, and that I’d been having anxiety dreams pretty much every night for a week or more. Some had been more anxious than others. The one where my husband fought 18 zombies had hardly seemed to count, because he’d defeated them (I was pretty useless, though, and I can’t pretend the onset of zombie apocalypse is a cheerful, optimistic scenario). Others were worse. I don’t remember them all, only that after each one I thought to myself, “That was weird, having an anxiety dream when I’m not actually anxious!”
How many anxiety dreams do I need to have before I set myself down and ask my brain what’s going on? Many, apparently.
A friend recently told me the etymology of the word “hypochondria,” which didn’t always signify imagined illness. It originally meant something more akin to melancholy. The Greek roots mean “under the ribs,” right where the stomach and liver reside. And that, in my experience, is where anxiety (depression’s partner-in-crime) is felt. A knot at the solar plexus, or a stab, or a fizz if it’s very light.
That last feeling is easy to dismiss. I’ve been dismissing it. My brain, always smarter than I am, has had to yell at me in my dreams just to get me to notice. I’m mentioning it here so I can’t just bury it again (which is tempting).
I am anxious. Maybe it’s about revisions. Maybe it’s about the drought we’ve had this summer (I think this under-rib fizz may have started in July, when the city was choked with wildfire smoke; it was ominous and end-times-y). Maybe it’s about upcoming travel (I’m going to Singapore!) or upcoming public speaking (I’m teaching a workshop — in Singapore!). Maybe it’s all these things, plus a few more, together in just the right proportions.
There are ways out of the labyrinth, always, but you can’t start looking for them until you fully admit you’re there.
So here I am.