The Virtue Project: April - Art

Apr 27, 2011
I have hit my first real slump. It's April, the proper beginning of spring in the upper Midwest, and National Poetry Month besides, so I decided that April's goal would be to work on my art. Every day, just a little bit of art. I have a lot of things I do - tapestry, embroidery, sewing - but it's my writing I've been wanting to work on the most.

I stumbled over an answer when somebody asked me the other day if I was a writer. I finally spat out a yes, and explained that I've been trying to convince myself that I could call myself a writer even when I haven't finished anything in years. He agreed that that was difficult, but said that he thought it still counted.

I stopped writing for a couple of years. Writing fiction, that is; I've been writing blog posts and analysis and journals for ever. But it's fiction that I think of as "real" writing, and I hadn't been doing any. When I first went to therapy and the therapist asked when I would feel that I wasn't depressed any more, I said, "When I start writing again." And I haven't been writing regularly since then, although I have been doing more in the past few months than I have for years.

Planning to write, though, is not writing. Sketching outlines is not writing. Research is not writing. Setting up a writing-only computer and workspace is not writing. Only writing is writing, and I haven't managed to write so much as a hundred words a day three days in a row.

I have managed more than half the days in the month, though. Well, almost. I have made progress on three big projects, which is more than has been happening. And just because it's difficult doesn't mean that's a good reason to give up on the goal.

My inspiration lately has been an interview with, of all people, Tim Gunn. A little snippet of it appeared in a Smithsonian magazine last year, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I won't let my students give up on something they don't like, he said. I tell them, make it work. You learn more from trying to fix the parts of it that don't work than you would from only ever finishing things that seem to be going well.

So that has been my watchword for the month. "Make it work." I'm forcing my way through last November's NaNoWriMo novel, even though it seems to be stumbling along helplessly through the second act, and I am still trying to write every day.

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