My writing coach, Demetria Martinez and I met yesterday for the first time in months. She patiently sat on her couch as I caught her up on my life since we last saw each other in July or August. I confessed that I had made very few visits to the studio to write, so few that I referred to these writing sessions as “visits,” rather than work or daily practice. I had one good week in December when I made it to the casita two, maybe three days in a row. Then the kids went on break. Then it was Christmas. Then our family drove to Deming to ring in the New Year with twenty other Oteros. And still the kids were on vacation, so we hosted a play date: seven kids, six hours. The day they went back to school, I worked in Santa Fe. The next day I facilitated a staff retreat for a local nonprofit. Then Henry and I hosted a slumber party on Friday night to celebrate P.’s birthday. Four ten-year-old girls slept on mattresses and the fold out couch in our living room. The last left at four o’clock the next afternoon. We made crepes on Sunday morning with Henry’s family and visited neighbors on Sunday afternoon.

So you would think that by Monday morning I’d be dying to get back in the studio, back to the quiet, back to the short stories I am developing, and back to Vessels, the project so many of you helped me push to a deeper level at this time last year. I used to get to my desk at nine in the morning. Now ten feels better. Once Henry drives the kids to school, I need about an hour to transition from making lunches/cleaning faces/checking backpack mode to solitary mode. I told myself I’d get to the casita by ten. But there was one more load of laundry to put in the dryer. And I was hungry. And P. asked me to save the game of Monopoly we started on Sunday night. I made it to my car by ten o’clock and started down Bridge for the five-minute trip to Riverside Drive. I took a detour at Isleta, cruised down and up La Vega, and caught Riverside on the south end, all the while listening to Dave Davies’s interview with Susan Orlean about her latest book, Rin Tin Tin – The Life and the Legend on Fresh Air. (Did you know that Rin Tin Tin nearly won the first Oscar for Best Actor in 1927? Or that the German Shepherd bit most of his co-stars?)

Once I reached the casita, I sat in the driveway, the engine off, but the radio still on. I checked email and Facebook from my iPhone. Nothing had changed since I’d last checked thirty minutes earlier. Finally a voice inside me said, “You know you’ll feel like crap if you don’t write, so you might as well go inside.” The casita looked the same as always—Suzanne’s paints and brushes arranged on a work table in the living room, her work-in-progress on an easel, morning light held behind the kitchen shades. I plugged in my laptop, turned off my ringer, and set my timer for 45 minutes. I worked on short story I drafted almost ten years ago, but never finished. It was crap. But when the alarm sounded, marking the start of my mandatory 15-minute stretch/potty/breathe-fresh-air break, I thought of how I would get Jesse to dinner at his half-sister’s house in Los Angeles, even though they hadn’t spoken in six years (the secret: green chile); and I knew I would write another 45 minutes after the break.

The story is a way back into the book, and as I work on it I remember that a story is like a chapter, and if I can give this story life and meaning, then I can do the same with my book.

Demetria said that my challenge this year is not about time, but about confidence. I was reminded of news reports in the early days of the current recession, how the problem was not that the economy sucked, but that consumers were suffering from a lack of confidence. More than three years later, most of us would agree that the economy sucks. As she spoke, I worried that my writing was like the economy, that months of on-again, off-again writing had ruined it, and that when my confidence rebounds, I will only find that my writing isn’t worth my confidence.

This kind of thinking is not helpful. I wrote last week about ambush, surprise attacks from those I trust. This week I am reminded that the worst ambush is the one that comes from inside my head.

Next Week: Training my Inner Ninja

Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. your words, as always, brilliant! why you self-flagellate, whip, beat, scourge, lash, birch, strap, belt, cane, thrash, is beyond me…. and whatever the lack of confidence is about well…just, you know, do it!

  2. Your posting made me think of when I was teaching parents a simple form of quieting the mind (you have to be able to calm yourself to be able to be your best, I believe, with kids).

    When I started my practice of meditating, as soon as I’d settled, my mind would start its shaninigans: “Did you set the dinner out to defrost?” “Why not start a load of laundry so it can be finished when this is over” etc., etc.

    It seems to me our ego is very determined to protect itself from finding out what we might discover (or create) if we give ourselves time and space to.

    You inspire me, Michelle. I look forward to your work!

  3. I know your pain. Know it so well.

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