May 29, 2007

The Mad Shuffling of Priorities

Guilt is a byproduct of my writing endeavours, desperation too. At 32, I feel a keen sense of urgency to get somewhere with all of this, make something of myself. Right now I can only call myself a writer in the loosest of terms. So I get frantic sometimes, which results in some likely subpar output. It's like there is a magic number in my head, some age limit, that I need to be successful by (and I realize that success is a rather subjective quality). I want writing to be my priority, the focus of what I am about, the core substance which defines my processes as an adult. But I'm realizing that this may never be the case. Life is notorious with its ability to make you take stock and implement changes.

Last year, my wife and I went on a three week backpacking trip through various parts of Europe. By far, it was the single most remarkable thing we'd ever done as a couple. The art, culture, food, drink, people -all left a permanent impression with us, something we value and talk about all the time. Of course, added into the mix was the fact that our first child (still in
Sandra's belly as I write this) was conceived. I'd heard that trips to Europe could do this to a couple, but I always thought we'd outside the norm. Not so. Novotel in Brussels will always be held in very high regard.
Throughout Sandra's pregnancy, I've wrestled with where to place writing on my list of priorities once the baby is here. Instinctually, I know the baby comes first. Each time I talk to the grub through dear Wifey's belly and it tries to thump me in the nose I am overwhelmed. But in the back of my mind I get this desperate feeling like I need to keep writing at the top of my list, that to let it take a back seat to anything will ultimately result in prolonged failure down the road. Surely, the successful writers out there let nothing deter them. I grow concerned that I will have to sacrifice one for the other.

A poet friend of mine and I were emailing back and forth recently. He mentioned that when he was married to his then wife, he made the big error of telling her that writing would always be his biggest priority. He wasn't being disingenuous with her (though he did say it was young and stupid of him to say this), just honest about where he was at. He didn't want her to think he would sacrifice his writing for job or relationship. But when his first child came, all of that was thrown out the window. He considered it primal instinct, something you cannot avoid, something deeper than marriage. Your children always come first.

In the
Belly to Baby classes Sandra and I attended this past weekend (which I highly recommend), I watched at least six different DVD births. Each and every one of them was beautiful and remarkable. And I get this sense that I'm realizing what my poet friend was talking about. This instinct is so immense and yet I only feel twinges of it right now. Even if I were callous enough to want to put writing in front of my children, I do not think I would be able to. When the bambino finally arrives, after all the labour and work my dear wife will go through, there will not be any doubt about priorities. And it may not be a matter of sacrifice. Writing is influenced by experiences. And this will be an unforgettable one, I'm sure.

May 15, 2007

Procrastinator Terminus

I've got Beck's Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997 (from the album Mellow Gold) playing and it is a lazy song. The music bleeds out slow, an inebriated slick of sound, sunken into the ground with apathy. There's no inspiration in it, but it is good music, the kind that slows you down to a staggering crawl.

The feel of this song, not the words per say, seems to embody my head space for writing these past few weeks. I have two stories in their final stages: peer edits in, red marks scrawled all over the manuscripts, all notes ready for serious concession. And I have not done a damn thing with them.

At first, I chalked it up to having to complete an editing assignment for a course I'm taking. But when that was done, nothing changed. So I considered blaming
Facebook and its infernal addictiveness. But that would also mean blaming my wife, Sandra, who started me up on the whole thing. To be honest I value my appendages... all of them. No the responsibility must lie with my own pathetic shortcomings. All the criticism I've levied against writers who look for ways to distract themselves from completing those last steps now comes full circle. And I have it a lot easier than most people.

The funny thing is, I often find the editing process more enjoyable than the actual penning of the first draft. Getting the initial story out can be agony. All the images jumbled in my head, giving me only a murky idea of what I'm trying to convey. Once the story is out on the page and I can start picking it apart, moving paragraphs, changing word choices, finding out what my peer editors have to say --that's when I feel like something of value can be accomplished.
So, I think I'm pulling back from those last few steps because I know that once they're done I've got to go back to square one. I have to start from scratch again, from one concrete image, from the idea of context. It's a trivial thing, really. I should be looking forward to the next editing process, the same way one anticipates a good meal without being too mindful about the preparation involved beforehand.

In other words, I'm being lazy. There, I said it. Of course, now that I've said it, I'll be racing upstairs to hammer away at my stories like a good boy. But I must do it quick, before my garden out front calls me into the sun, before someone posts on my Facebook account, before the hockey game starts, before... crap, too late.