Checking In For the Day

My last post was awhile ago, so I thought I should write something as part of my daily (writing) practice.  Class at WriterHouse has been satisfying.  Even though it takes me an hour and a half to two hours to get to Charlottesville, my classmates are equally eager to be there as I am.  Part of our ritual is that after we all exchange hellos, someone asks me about my drive down.  Once I tell them which route I took this time & how the scenery looked, we get down to the wordy business.

Unfortunately, as time goes on & people get more comfortable, our group gets smaller.  Seems like some people can’t arrange their schedules or have too much going on to be able to do the work & come to class.  It makes me feel grateful that Kurt & I can both arrange our schedules to make it down every Monday evening.

Since I’m someone who has trouble living in the moment, I’ve already been thinking about what to do when group is over.  Going to workshop has, to me, shades of attending church or going to a support group.  The obvious statement is that I feel better when I’m connected to people I share some interest with, especially when those people are willing to make sacrifices to be there too or make the effort to give their best.  I think it is no coincidence that, at the same time, I’ve been writing & thinking a lot about the mental health facility I spent some time in when I was 20.  The parallels of support and the idea of each person or story being important are the same.  I’ve been writing about the place & the things I’ve experienced there off and on in my fiction writing.  But now, I’ve started on something that’s more “truthful” merely because it has the non-fiction label stuck on it.  The ideas that are in the piece scare me, but in a good way, in a ok-let’s-just-get-it-all-out kind of way.

The other thing that scares me is becoming one of those people who thinks that their therapy is their art.  I don’t believe those two things are the same.  The things you do to understand yourself can hold seeds of inspiration; creating can be therapeutic.  But they are two distinct things.  I’ve wondered lately if writing is just therapy for me, if it’s just a way that I render the world to understand it.  I know that thought is just another variation on the I’m-not-cut-out-for-this-am-I bullshit insecurities that anyone can carry around.  But there is one recent anecdote that I keep coming back to.

A month and a half after I started learning the fiddle last year, my teacher Steve told me that if I wanted I could probably start teaching beginners.  That threw me for a major loop.  I thought I still sounded pretty rough, making progress but still hesitant over fingerings & tunings.  Here was someone who had been playing for most of his adult life telling me that I could teach someone to play the fiddle.  It was a compliment that I tried to accept well, but in reality I panicked.  I had always thought of myself as a writer, mainly because as a kid, my family & my teachers thought there was something to my scribbles.  So I wrote more, thinking there had to be something to it.  I kept doing it, thinking that if I was meant to do something writing was it.  After Steve’s compliment, it was like being that kid again, someone I respect telling me I’m pretty good at something & now think I’m supposed to go do that.

I realize those earlier statements might sound very naive to you, believe me I’m squirming over it too.  My point is simply that I built a whole ideal and accompanying skill set around what I thought I did best.  And maybe, as my friend J might say, I wasn’t “meant” to do anything.  Maybe the truth is that, for me, writing isn’t something to do creatively but to do as a way with dealing with the world.

Whether this is a crisis of confidence or not, I’m not going to give up on writing or playing music or any of the other creative past-times I dabble in.  Matthew Good once sang, sarcastically, “Don’t make nothing, just go get paid.”  That isn’t really an option.  I simply wish I trusted myself more.