After an eventful summer—a week-long stint at Tin House in Portland, our wedding, a visit from my parents; trips to Rome, Cancún, Los Angeles—I find myself yearning for some quiet contemplation. I’ve also been quite busy with my “day job” as a freelance translator trying to keep myself financially afloat that I’d been reading very little and writing even less. But when I think back to the amazing week I had studying under Lesley Nneka-Arimah at Tin House, and having the privilege of simply being close to my writing self and not having to think about anything but books and writing for a full 7 days, I remind myself just how important it is to stay in touch with that side of myself. And, perhaps most importantly, how to stay constant.
Years ago, my MFA thesis advisor (and one of my favorite writing teachers ever) gave me simple, yet powerful advice that I keep in the back of my mind. In a nutshell, writing is difficult, yes, but you know what’s more difficult? “Stapling your ass to the chair,” as he told me, “eliminating distractions and hammering out the damned thing. Discipline: that’s difficult.”
He sent me this via e-mail some years ago when I was complaining about a bad stint of writers’ block. Since then, I’ve published a fair amount and have done my share of residencies and what not, but I have a writing project that I need to finish. Namely, edit a book and find an agent. I’ve already made quite a bit of progress in this regard (I’ve never been one to sit idle) but as of late I’ve simply been too distracted by, well, life. All blessings and good things, yes, but distractions nonetheless. When I was at Tin House, there was a wedding to plan. Then my parents’ visit to think about and make reservations. Flights to catch, itineraries to set in place, calls to make, friends to see, and lots of socialization. Plus, not to mention, a marriage to maintain.
Now it’s time to focus on myself and to get back to my life’s purpose: setting pen to paper.