Thursday, August 2, 2018

Nothing is a Horrible Word

By Cheryl Oreglia

When it's time to post a blog sometimes the panic surges up in my esophagus, as if struck by severe indigestion, and I find it hard to breathe. Especially if I am late to the process. Desperately scanning my life for relevant material, knocking back cup after cup of french roast, but when nothing surfaces, I slump against the wall in total resignation.

Nothing is a horrible word. It means of little importance, of no concern, not anything, nil, zero, zilch, nada, zip, diddly-squat, and apparently that's all I have.

In a feeble attempt to avoid the blank page I order a therapeutic candle and vintage mixing bowls from Amazon. The thrill is short lived.

These are my current thoughts, "I want to accost the gardner who has been running the blower since eight this morning, causing the neighbor's dog to bark incessantly, and the whine from the refrigerator is taunting me.

I might need to move to Paris?

With nothing to write I'm sort of forced to scan Facebook, but it's the same three friends, checking into the same three restaurants, eating the same enticing food, which they photograph and post. Now I'm hungry.

I open both sides of the refrigerator and narrow in on a slice of leftover steak. It's dry, someone has taken a bite out of it, and decided to leave it behind? Maybe I'll take a picture and post my pathetic meal on Facebook? Maybe not.

Continuing to veer off course, I send out a few self-serving tweets, watch the hummingbirds fight over the feeder just outside my window, when unexpectedly I become fixated on exfoliation.

Diligently digging through my makeup drawer for said product, I spend ten minutes massaging mud onto my freshly washed face. Glancing in the mirror at the dried brown mask I realize all I'm doing is hiding. Damn. I hate it when reality slaps me in the face.

Rinse. Moisturize. Pluck eyebrows because this seems less painful than plucking words from my brain.

Back to the blank page. Maybe I need is a prompt?

I rifle through recent events as if on the Easter egg hunt, searching for something hidden, relevant, apposite. It's daunting. The empty page stares me down until I run to the kitchen with my mug screaming, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs," a Stephen Kingism.

Sometimes I use starters like, "Today I notice... I'm curious about... I couldn't live without... I wonder about...." The word that keeps popping into my head is NOTHING.

Let's hope the coffee kicks in soon.

I admit during the summer it is especially difficult to write because I'm busy relaxing.

Now some people have interesting lives. I just don't happen to be one of them. But interesting things do happen around me.

When I started blogging I thought it would be effortless. Sit my ass  down in a chair and allow the words to flow through me. Ann Lamott says “All good writers write [terrible first drafts.] This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. . . I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)”

Maybe I need  a priest?

Or a writing process?

What would a process look like? So glad you asked. Here, I gave it a go. You're welcome.

1. Feed the Blog. I need to get in the habit of jotting down memorable events. Worry less about spelling. Ramble, unload, let it go...this is not the blog, this is food for the blog (shitty first draft). For example, the enormous fires that surrounded us at the lake house last weekend, or the old friend who called me up out of the blue, because she's selling some miraculous anti-aging gel, and wants me to be part of her downline? Than there's my beloved cousin who demanded we clean out the refrigerator because she insisted a colony of botulism had moved in the produce drawer. The common theme seems to be preservation? We'll let those thoughts marinate while I cut up some cucumbers for my eyes.

2. Groom the Blog. I am a quote hoarder. It's true. I obsessively write down quotes, passages, articles, books that inspire. I keep a notebook handy or just record them verbally on my iPhone. This week I came across; "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind." Dr. Seuss. "Where’s your will to be weird?" Jim Morrison. "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire," Ferdinand Foch. A Writer's Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance by Deb Norton, "Don't look where you don't want to go." It's odd how I come across just what I need, just when I need it? Spooky... 

3. Weed the Blog. Spy on your thoughts suggests Deb Norton. Good writing is about telling the truth. Start with that shitty first draft, then weed, weed, weed until the truth is able to grow. “If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive,” Anne Lamott. As if a child investigating a June bug, be fearless, notice everything, abandon yourself to the delight. 

4. Liberate the Blog. I'm not talking about the feminist movement, or burning your bra, this is about getting the words down and letting them go. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” Anne Lamott. I have this running inner dialogue which tries to derail me, I realize this comes from a place of fear, I attempt to mollify her with kindness, or caffeine, and then unfollow her as if an annoying Facebook troll.
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” Enid Bagnold

What does your writing process involve? Where do you find inspiration? How do you generate material? I'd be ever so grateful if you shared a few thoughts in the comments.

Full story at Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, I crave good company.


Carrie Beckort said...

When it comes to posts for the blog, I do have some challenges at times thinking of things we haven't already blogged about. I often sit around my office staring at things, letting my mind wander, and when it snags on something I think it through and that usually leads me to something. I also find I come up with a lot of my ideas in the shower. I do also write down ideas that I don't really want to do, but I figure they're good if I get in a really tight spot. But see - you just made up a post about nothing, proving anything is fair game :)

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thanks for your comment Carrie, I too am a shower creative, and damn good singer if I say so myself! I like the idea of allowing the mind to wander until it lands an idea. Sitting in the kitchen my right now my eyes landed on a favor from a recent (well over a year ago) funeral, it was a small bottle of vodka, wrapped in a lace bag, with a heart charm attached. The sweet woman who passed enjoyed her spirits in the evening. Two things come to mind, how we are remembered, and why I have a favor from a funeral over a year ago still lounging in my kitchen? I believe I may have stumbled on something.

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