[Now that I have finished writing the sober book, and cover art is finished, I’ve talked with the UK printer about paper and cover stock … now i’m spending time looking over earlier journals about the writing process. i can see that it took a LOT longer than i thought it would to find out HOW to write, to find a pattern, a rhythm. I discovered that writing is like early sobriety: shit is hard, then it gets easier, then we don’t know what we’re doing, then we figure some things out, and then we make daily, small progress.
i’m going to post some of the writing that i did over the last year that ‘helped’ me figure out the sober writing thing. Because the parallels with sobriety are huge and many.]
monday; June 29th @ 5:30 a.m.
Maybe writing is meditative because you stop focussing on other things and you are very in the present, writing the next word. This word is being written at this time. Now. It’s how we feel now, but also it’s what we do now. The only time to write a book is now. The only time we can be writing is now. (The only time to be sober is now. the only time to not take a drink is now.)
gaining the motivation to begin? the problem is usually mental. A problem with thinking. How to create new (adaptive, supportive) thoughts. How to accept chick-in-grass-ness while you figure it out.
i look forward to feeling less clenched, more focussed, more zen. cell phone off more (oh the checking, turning off and on – this is why i didn’t want a phone). looking for a continuous drip of adrenaline, an event, entertainment. Because what? because me left alone will be what? Bored. And bored = amped up + inactive. because when i’m not amped up + inactive, i feel like i’m resting, on vacation. So it’s the amped up part to change. the seeking of the distraction. stay here. do this for now. keep doing this thing.
5:30 am. I know my to-do list is too long for today, but i wanted to pre-envision a routine — not knowing if i’ll love a routine or balk against it. The not-knowing how i’ll feel in any given situation, what i will like, seems peculiar at age 48 to be figuring out now. But we don’t ever create the space to do this kind of work (self-figuring-out-work). We drink to guarantee it doesn’t occur. We watch reruns just to be doing something. Because us alone AND amped up AND idle is just long and torturous.
we bring drama to the table. we believe our own hyped up stories of how ‘hard’ it is. we bring the flailing, wrenching, twisting. We bring the rationalizations — i can’t do this now because … we bring the avoidant spinnyness.
writing just upon waking means no internet, no emails, means i go straight into writing from a relaxed, relatively empty space / head space. i can move into routines with more autopilot and less thought. The thing we crave is some ‘before time’ — before responsibilities, before kids, or husbands or whatever. now we have to construct our ‘before/alone’ time (5 a.m.?), we have to construct our self-care, we have to try and try more, different, other, to bring it together.
Maybe the practise of writing is the zen in the day that makes the rest of the day better. like being sober, alone time, reflective, running, zen, pets, horse therapy, photography, swimming, running painting — all ways to come to a stillness of thinking. Maybe writing is a solution, or one of them, or my personal solution. turn off the world, make the edges go black, just like it was when it was me+tv when younger.
i maybe like this.
In a writing class the instructor said “get up before your editor does”. That is why it works so well. Don’t edit, just write, write, write. xoxo
I can really relate too the ‘before’ time. When I stopped drinking I thought a routine change would help break the habit, and experimented with moving my working day to start and finish earlier, to leave lots of time to achieve things in the evenings. But then quickly realised that waking earlier – well rested and without a hangover – and still going into work at original time worked better for me. Time to really savour a good cup of tea, to talk a sunrise walk, to get my head right for a chilled start to the day, or anything else that let me benefit from this quality time. Plus during the day to resist pressures to multi task, to carve out blocks to focus in on particular tasks – both reducing my stress AND getting into the flow of giving full attention to the job in hand.
“we believe our own hyped up stories of how ‘hard’ it is. we bring the flailing, wrenching, twisting. We bring the rationalizations — i can’t do this now because … we bring the avoidant spinnyness.”
I have done so much LESS of this in the last 74 days. Especially with respect to running. Getting up and GOING before the mind starts thinking about anything else. Like an escape before you even need/want to escape. Sneaking the zen in first thing in the morning is THE BEST THING EVER and I would never do it before, because I was in what Veronica perfectly described as “anxiety-induced paralysis”
Before time. I love it. So much goodness
It’s nice to hear that you enjoy the process, Belle. I have heard of this phenomenon but never experienced it personally.
I don’t enjoy writing. Sometimes I write a lot with great ease and other times I struggle with every word. Sometimes I read what I wrote and I think,
“Wow, this is awesome.”
Or “Did I write this? This is very good but I’m not sure I wrote this.”
Or “My god, this is terrible. I sound like a fifth grader… and a none-too-bright-fifth grader at that!”
Sometimes I want to write and sometimes I don’t, but I never enjoy it.
i don’t enjoy it either. some days are magical. some days i want to poke my eyes out. the part i liked was being up early when the noise was quieter. turned out, though, that i couldn’t sustain 5:15 a.m. wake-ups and i was only able to do it twice before i moved on to ‘writing routine tool attempt #2’ …
Oh boy, Belle. I sooo relate to the amped up + inactive = bored. That’s huge for me in early sobriety… All this extra brain chatter plus free time (usually spent drinking), plus the self-talk of what I “should be doing” creates a sort of anxiety-induced paralysis for me. How fabulous it would be to find a creative outlet that turns off the world and “makes the edges go black.” If I dedicated even a fraction of the time I spent drinking on a new hobby (haha, what a sad hobby drinking is!), surely I could eventually find something I could lose myself in… Music, art, crafting, some kind of awesome outdoor sport like rowing or snow-shoeing… Thanks for making me reframe my yucky feelings towards my boredom anxiety — maybe it’s time to look for a new zen! (And not feel bad if I struggle or have to “try different” with that too!) 🙂