the intersection where creativity and productivity meet

It’s snowing now. I’m in my little aluminum trailer, in the yard where the emus live. The ground outside is dry yellow grass. The low mountains are brown. The sky is white. The trees are bare. Trees wouldn’t grow here, but the caretaker pumps water from the well to water them. There are a couple of big trees, bare against the white sky. In all directions you can see forever, until the next massive thing. You can see all the way to the mountains, you can see all the way to the hills. There is nothing to stop you. No forest, rising up. No clutter of electric lines or the peaked roofs of houses.

I am a writer, yes? I write things. Then there is productivity, the idea that I might make enough of something to trade it for something else. I might make enough sentences to fill a barn, and in the fall I could sell them all at once, and make seed money to grow more sentences. Right? There is only the question- how to fill a barn with sentences? I am young, I barely believe in the future. I am trying, right now, to fill a barn with sentences. I am trying to write a lot of pages, all in a row, of one single story. I have a lot of details for this story, I know everything that happens already. I only have to construct each scene, one at a time, and have the people in it move around and make faces, and say things, and then have other things happen, like car accidents and a tear in the fabric of space-time. Right? And then the next scene- what does the air smell like, what are the characters looking at, what color is the sky. Like Ann Marie taught me, via miz Gore. Right? It is simple, like doing a cross-stitch. Although I think I am growing too blind for cross-stitch. But I am not too blind to write! And I have the space heater pumping heat, here at my feet, and a set of emus, strange flower-like dinosaur-birds, pecking at the windows of the trailer. And a big jug of well-water. And an unformed mound of time.

But Oh, I am an expert at burning up unformed mounds of time. Let me at it! I’m like a magician. I’ll set fire to that haystack and burn it down faster than you can say “funemployed”. And I won’t have a thing to show for it.

Right? I don’t know. I wish I had a writer friend, who had written a whole book before, to ask questions. When I am no longer interested in writing on a story, do I keep on writing? And if I keep on writing, will it still be good, even if I am not interested in it? See this, now, that I am writing, I know it will be good, because I am interested in it, and it gives me pleasure to write it. But pleasure is fickle, and we only have a few clear days at a time, or less, of any given thing, before our hearts might decide we are done with it, and want to move on to something else. And I know with other things that are not writing- like running, for example, the best thing to do is ignore this feeling, the feeling of wanting to walk, now, instead of run anymore- it is best to just ignore the feeling and keep running. Just feel the wanting to walk, and think it, but do nothing to stop your legs from running. And nothing bad happens at all. You run three miles and then you feel good. But with writing, is it the same?

I don’t know. Maybe I will have nothing, ever, but a teacup full of sentences. A hundred teacups full of sentences, and I will starve. Or I will do something else, so that I don’t starve. I don’t know how to keep writing even when it’s not fun anymore, and I can’t think of any other way to write a whole book. Magic does not like to be tamed, and my spontaneity is never very enduring. Maybe I should just give up, and run away into the hills, and build a log cabin. I’ll build a small one first, here in this trailer, out of sticks that I whittle with my pocket-knife, so that I know how. I’ll get a bunch of goats up there so I won’t be lonely, and maybe someday when I’m old someone will stumble upon my hut in a storm when they’re wandering, lost in the mountains. They’ll be like me, when I was young, and they’ll have a bunch of paper with them, and they’ll be trying to write a book. And I’ll feed them hot nettle tea and smile to myself and watch them sleep and feel bad for them, because life is so much nicer when you are not trying very hard to do something that is impossible and miraculous and ridiculous, when you are not trying to build the universe out of nothing but the contents of your own stupid brain.

Oh well, here I go again, to try some more.

6 thoughts on “the intersection where creativity and productivity meet

  1. Listen, carrot, I am a part of something you aren’t aware of, which is my own world, of my own making & working so utmost very hard on a project,
    fighting for time, grasping for barnfuls, gazing at teacups, being in love with being alive & feeling like I,
    somehow, cannot be alone in this,
    there must be someone else, somewhere else, who feels the way I feel about words and whose blood rushes with the world’s,
    and as it turns out, for me, it is you,
    writing this blog which I have been reading for damn near two years as I struggle and work in solitude in Tennessee,
    as it turns out, tonight I had a drink with gin in it and I read this one and want to dash anonymity on the rocks, I just hafta let you know-
    You’re keeping a part of me alive that wants to curl up like a leaf of pirate map in a candle, you are the woman with the nettle tea, the wise crone in the cave–
    We are quite much in similar places.
    You are keeping my chin up & it’s about time I told you, thank you,
    Thank You,
    A thousand times. You can do it.

  2. Oh stranger! Your comment has made me feel so much better this dark lonely night in northern idaho, when it is just me and my thoughts and the cold hillz. We are like small glowing ships on the dark empty sea. And thank you for your continued readership!

  3. YES. carrot. YES.
    the answer to your question ‘do i keep writing?’
    is YES.
    of course YES.

    you will write through the grumbles
    the confusion
    the ‘why the hell am i doing this’?

    you will write garbage
    and you will write gold

    and you will hate it.
    and you will want to curl up with it in bed.

    and maybe.
    maybe you declare a week away from writing
    like you declare a month away from the city.

    but out there, keep writing.
    you will hit the wall
    but if you keep going
    you will encounter things
    in yr writerly world
    you never thought possible.

  4. Are the people in your story marionettes you are using to illustrate the story or do they perhaps have a story to tell of their own?

  5. Carrot, I know you feel alone out where-ever you are, but getting to read things like this makes me feel less alone in my creative process. Because though we are truly gifted to be able to express certain emotions and talents that we possess that others only think about maybe attempting, once in a while, it can turn into a struggle, if we let it. (i am beyond guilty of this.) Yes. Just keep going. And if a day goes by and nothing gets done, or whatever you do you think is crap, don’t beat yourself up. One of my favorite artists said something like, if you can get to a place where you are happy with maybe half of what you do, then you are really fortunate. They are all diamonds, one way or the other.

  6. “…because life is so much nicer when you are not trying very hard to do something that is impossible and miraculous and ridiculous, when you are not trying to build the universe out of nothing but the contents of your own stupid brain.”

    This resonates so deeply with me and my own struggles not only to become a doctor but a real honest to god human being. Most of the time it feels like I’m trying to make the whole universe out of my own knowledge and understanding…and it’s not working at all.

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