A question for you writers: do you ever read your own past work with an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach, a feeling that stems from the conviction that what you are reading–this stuff from a month or a year or two ago–is your best work, the most you are capable of, and you will never be able to write with such wit and skill again, so you might as well just take up another hobby, like cross stitchery or paint-by-number, because writing is clearly something you USED TO BE good at (back when you did not have to add an afterthought in parentheses to avoid ending a sentence in a preposition)?
I was just wondering. Because this morning, while lying in my bed with the cat sleeping soundly on my neck, I remembered a post I wrote a few years ago about what my cat and dog would say to each other if they could talk while I was at work. Semi-recent events (the death of the “talking” dog in that post) and current circumstances (the arrival of a new dog who is still finding her place with the cat who likes to crush my esophogeal passage) made me nostalgic about that post, so, using my mobile internet capabilities (so I wouldn’t disturb the cat, of course), I re-read that post, and about 10 others, and for about 22 seconds I felt inspired to rush down to the laptop and write. Write! Like a writer! With words and writing! Oh, calling that has eluded me! And then I turned on the computer and checked my Facebook and read some blogs on Google Reader and looked at some stuff on Twitter, and then Mia got up a whole hour early before I had even taken a drink of coffee, and for the rest of the day I have been grumpy and sullen, convinced that any writing skill I had before, back when I started this blog, and back when I was writing humorous stuff about being a teacher, and back in November when my beloved now-defunct Wondertime, may you rest in peace, offered me a writing gig HAS COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY DISAPPEARED.
Before I go on, I want you to know that I’m not asking any of you who might be reading this to praise my writing and boost my ego. That is so not my point, so don’t even go there. The truth is that I don’t really believe you can have an inherent skill that just “goes away,” and I’ve shamelessly said before that I believe writing is a skill that came packaged with my brain at birth. It’s something I’ve always excelled at and enjoyed, and I don’t think I can kill it with lack of use (the same cannot be said of my poor wilting biceps and quads, but that is a story for another day). And anyway, I write all the time. In my head. I am constantly thinking in complete sentences and paragraphs, crafting the description of an event, playing with words and phrases on an imaginary screen. A screen that sadly does not have a “publish” button. And so my point, which I do have, honestly, is that I don’t really think I’ve lost my creativity, or that I’m no longer a decent writer, but when I have time to be creative or put my skill to practice, I end up doing something else with my time (as well as the part of my brain that motivates me to be witty in print). Cue Facebook, Twitter, and iGoogle (and its many minions, including a Twitter gadget, a mini Facebook gadget, and Google Reader, so I don’t have to miss one of YOUR posts even as I ignore my own). So there’s that, and that’s a big deterrent, and I am not really sure I’m willing to give it up because of the access it allows me to so many people I never, ever see. But where to draw the line?
And then there is That Draft I Started Working on in December of 2007. Honestly, if I analyzed my blogging habits to date, I feel sure I would discover a marked decline that began around December of 2007. Remember that post I wrote about being a single drafter? And about how I have trouble starting something new before what I’m working on is complete? Well, take that trouble and multiply it by five billion when the incomplete piece is about the recurrent dreams I am having about my deceased grandmother, whose death still troubles me and whose last several years troubled me just as much. Every time I log into wordpress, thanks to the new and improved dashboard, I am reminded of that draft and its state of incompletion, and yet, because of the subject matter, I cannot bring myself to open it and finish it OR do away with it entirely, and so it hangs there in so many ways, rendering me incapable of giving myself over completely to new creativity and fresh ideas.
Even as I draw this ramble to a close–hurriedly, as I am already running late for a dinner gathering because I’ve spent entirely too much time on Facebook!–I feel like I’m at the same place I’ve been for the past several months: I want to write often like I used to, but I’m not sure how to make it happen. Do I give up Facebook and the like and use that time to write? Do I delete that draft and move on without it? I don’t think I have it in me to do either of those things, and thus far I haven’t found the draft’s ending yet so finishing it right up is not an option, either, so if you’re reading this and you have an idea, I’d sure like to hear it.