On self-discipline and self-flagellation

The most difficult aspect of writing, for me, has always been the self-discipline required to write every day, no matter what. I simply don’t have any. (Not just for writing, either, but that’s a whole other post!)

There are a number of legitimate reasons excuses I could put forward to explain why it’s so difficult to find the time to write on a regular basis, not the least of which are family and work obligations as well as my ruthless internal editor, but even if I won the lottery tomorrow and didn’t ever have to work again, I would still probably lack the self-discipline to stick to a regular routine of writing. (Blogging doesn’t count.) I envy those people who can wake up early in the morning to get a couple of hours of writing done before they start their day, but that’s not an option for me as my weekdays start at 6am without any writing, and staying up late comes with its own obstacles, not the least of which is sleep deprivation doesn’t make for very good writing.

I especially envy the old me who used to crank out at least one new poem each week, slam it at the Nuyorican on a Wednesday night (or later, read it every Monday at 13), and then move right on the next one, rarely looking back. Most of those poems weren’t very good, but the gears were always turning and I’d eventually revisit a few and edit them into something good whenever I hit a dry patch. Most of that writing was done at Botanica, a couple of nights each week after work, usually before the Nuyorican on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Last year, I’d gotten back into the habit of writing in bars for a little while to pretty good results — a handful of pretty decent poems and random bursts of micro-fiction — but it’s a tricky balance between focusing on the writing over the social atmosphere, the two of which are inextricably connected for me, and lately the latter has been winning out.  It’s a vicious cycle, too, as reading a poem out loud has always been part of my editing process, but my overly strict definition of “new” — anything that’s been read more than twice is “old” — makes it difficult to keep up with my own standards.

ie: I forced myself to read an “old” poem last week just to kickstart my 2008 plan to read every week, but am now stressing over tonight, thinking I have to write something new…but when?

I am, and have always been, my own worst enemy.

Last night, lying in bed just after midnight, unable to sleep as my mind was racing over a million different things, I got up to write down a snippet that kept running through my head:

In the middle of the street stands
a 7-year-old boy in grey and black
Batman pajamas; his two front teeth
are missing, along with one on
the bottom, his crooked smile
complementing mischievous eyes
dead-set on the horizon.

No idea where it’s trying to go or if it will end up going anywhere at all, but I’m glad I got out of bed to write it down because I usually don’t, thinking it will still be there in the morning and it never is.

I got a Jet Blue gift certificate for Christmas and am thinking I might use it to go to a writer’s retreat somewhere in the Spring. Much like when I finally started going back to the gym last year and signed up for a one-year commitment to ensure I’d stick it out (a resolution I’ve slipped on the past two months but am kickstarting again this week, starting today), I think a similarly concentrated dose of writing might be beneficial in helping me move forward.

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