Okay, trying to wake up and figure out what to say. I don't want to complain again about my job or make wishes for the future. I haven't weighed myself yet and don't want to think about being fat or plan ways to get in shape. I'm shooting all my ideas down. This is some of what keeps me from feeling able to write. More insidious than "I have nothing to write" is feeling that every idea I have is unworthy of being written.
What is there to do when these thoughts come?
The answer is already on the page. I'm fourteen lines into a draft (pictured above) about feeling unworthy. Actually, it was only five lines before this idea developed from the act of writing. The practice of moving the pen, hand, and mind created a connection leading to a page about getting through feeling unworthy. I've gone into that feeling instead of away from it and proven again the power of moving the pen.
My instinct when feeling unworthy is to run away. This leads to a lot of web surfing, nail clipping, snacking, coffee, and the occasional load of laundry. I'll do most anything to get away from not-writing. The blank page or screen is a magic mirror saying I'm the least worthy of them all. If I don't run away, I stare into the blankness, stewing in my insecurity, acting as though I'm thinking of ideas. I am thinking, but only of unworthiness, feeling too small, stupid, and self-centered to write. Running or staring turn out the same: I'm not writing and the evil editor is in charge. I'm mired in a self-pity some call writer's block.
Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones (and others) suggests rules of writing practice, the first of which is to keep the hand moving. That rule and practice got me through feeling unworthy this morning and many time before. I wrote those unworthy things as the first lines of Morning Pages. I began knowing two things: I would absolutely fill three pages and I would keep my hand moving. That's enough.
In writing practice there's no need for a worthy idea prior to beginning, no need to feel worthy. There are always more ideas in my head than I could ever write, so it's no lack of ideas stopping the writing. What stops me is feeling unworthy to begin. If I get my hand moving and keep it moving as I did here, I'm already writing, putting the lie to the feeling I'm unworthy to write.
This works even if I begin "I have nothing to write." Having written that, I've put something on the page and a follow up thought is in the hopper: "At least, I have nothing good to write. I'm wishing I didn't have to go to my job and wondering if I can call in sick." There's three sentences leading me to write why my job is bad, if I can call in sick, or maybe the ethics of a sick day when I feel fine. Three sentences have proven I have things to write and more sentences rush toward the page.
I'm halfway through page three of the first draft. It required only the movement of my hand and faith in the practice. This may seem like hokum or hokus-pokus. There is some sleight of hand at work here. I've kept the hand moving, distracting the evil editor enough that my hand takes over the writing process. I've gotten to work despite feeling unworthy. Moving my hand is less a trick than a practice in which I've come to believe. It gets me to good work.
I began feeling unworthy and wrote "Okay, trying to wake up and figure out what to say." I kept my hand moving and filled three pages. It was good enough to type, revise, and publish. Just look what happened.