Dec 2 2010

Stop and Start

What’s stopping me?

The cursor swings across the dock of icons perched at the bottom of my screen. Each one swells and rises and the tiny arrow passes, as if standing up to wave, “Choose me!” A small red circle whispers that there are 17 unread messages in my in-box. The Twitter app growls at me, someone I follow has just posted a tweet. I eye the Skype icon at the top of my computer screen, it is illuminated, green for go ahead, chat me, call me. Facebook is open on one of the tabs of my browser, She Writes in the other. These friendly distractions smiling at me, reaching out as if to offer me a piece of candy.

Last night’s pledge to get writing as soon as the kids left for school is not forgotten. I hear the door click shut, and their voices fade as they make their way down the stairs and out of the building, out of my way for the day. I heave the obligatory sigh of relief, warm up my coffee with scalded milk that’s been whisked until frothy. I sit with my laptop and I realize that this is my moment, this is bliss. I am alone. Hot café-au-lait beside me. The internet humming. My RSS feed. Favorite blogs. A scan of the tweets from overnight. Emails. Part of me needs that 1/2-hour to wake up, to wet my toes in the day and give myself the gift of messing about and luxuriously eating up time with the simple pleasures of the internet.

I owe much of my writing to these elements of the internet. Because I started blogging two years ago, I have become a more regular writer, which is bound to make you a better one, or at least a more confident. The simple act of posting once or twice a week means I’ve published twice as many words in two years as in the previous decade. And I love the medium. It makes me want to write. Blogging has made my writing a priority. Twitter, too, though sometimes a deterrent, a handy mechanism to avoid the stare-down with a blank page, must be acknowledged because through these micro-texts I have met other writers, solid resources and cunning friends who inspire me to write.

I could blame my computer and its high speed connection to the ether and all the bells and whistles that keep me plugged in to a digital universe — except that universe has been my inspiration, my vehicle, my great encourager. I cannot place the blame there.

What I do each day that doesn’t contribute to my writing is doubt. I doubt that I’m ready to start. I doubt that I have something to say. I doubt that it will turn out as lyrical or poignant or sarcastic as it sounds now, in my head, the seed of something yet to be written, a concept emerging, fecund with its own potential. That’s what’s stopping me.

I know how to do it, how to eliminate it. It happens when I quit the mail app, turn off Tweetdeck, set Skype into offline mode. Once I do that, the words come, slow but then with momentum until I am tapping the keyboard like it’s a piano and I’m playing the Debussy I know by heart.

The doubt is never permanent, but it likes to linger. I know exactly how to eliminate it. All I have to do, is start.

I’m participating in Reverb10, and this post is in response to a prompt from author Leo Babauta: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing – and how can you eliminate it?