Today is a ‘complete waffle day’. A day to intentionally write meaningless, useless, off-the-cuff post just for the sake of it. If you don’t want to waste your time reading it, I understand. You can stop right now. But if you want to go on a journey to find out where it will take me, you are welcome. Keep reading.
“Another trick: When nothing’s fun anymore, try to make the worst thing you can. The ugliest drawing. The crummiest poem. The most obnoxious song. Making intentionally bad art is a ton of fun.”
Today is my day to write the worst post. Aimless writing, without any subject matter. Reminds me of the days when I would wake up five in the morning, open the 750Words (a website based on a writing exercise introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way) site and stare at the blank screen. I was supposed to write 750 words in forty minutes before getting ready for work. Nothing would come to mind. Absolutely nothing. The dread of the blank page, new writes call it.
Then, out of complete frustration, I would type a few words, something like, I feel like sh*t… when will I have something to say… And off I would go, on and on, pouring out my frustration, filling the page with useless, meaningless writing.
Soon the blank page of 750Words became my friend. I could write anything on it and next day it would disappear. I could go back to them if I wanted and salvage if there was anything worth salvaging, usually there was none, so I didn’t bother. That was my akin to what Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a letter to a group of high school students assigning them this homework:
Write a poem and don’t show it to anybody. Tear it up into little pieces and throw them into the trash can. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow. That was the whole purpose of making art: Practicing an art no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.From Keep Going by Austin Kleon
Vonnegut would suggest his daughter Nanette that she should make a piece of art and burn it” as a spiritual exercise. “There is something cathartic about burning your work,” writes Austin, “Artist John Baldessari, disgusted by his previous work, had it all cremated and put in a ceremonial urn.”
I need a ceremonial urn too, to keep all my old journals and notebooks, may be to be cremated with me. At the moment I am not ready to burn my old notebooks and journals. However shitty they are, they are part of me. Each page reminds me of the day I lived. Daily writing is so addictive, the day you don’t write feels like the day not lived.
Somewhere along the line I developed the habit of dating each time I put pen to paper. Now I have started a project to put all those writings – some on pieces of paper, some on computer, some on the backside of to-do lists – and compile them in chronological order. It is taking time, too much time, because it takes me back to the memory lane. Many writers can’t bear to read their old journal, I enjoy mine, laughing at absurdity of my thoughts, fears and plans. That is all I have in them, my thoughts, fears and plans.
The biggest dilemma new writers have is what to write, as I have observed at various writing workshops, particularly if given the freedom to write anything. They stare at the blank page and wonder for hours. But give them a topic and they write pages and pages. I am an exact opposite. Give me a topic and I freeze. I need to do research, analyze, evaluate, form my opinion and then figure out how I am going to structure my response. But give me the freedom to write anything and I can waffle for hours. That could be due to training on 750Words or it could be due to fact that after twenty years of writing practice I still don’t have anything to say.
I pause to check my word score. It is exactly 747 words. Three more words and I am done for today’s writing. Then I will put it the ‘ceremonial urn’ to be burned with me.