Our muse, who art within us,
Hallowed be thy flame.
Thy freedom come,
Thy quill be done—
No dearth like the other night at seven.
Give us this day our daily “said,”
And forgive us our frets,
As we forgive those fretters within us.
Lead us not into frustration,
But deliver us from drivel
Now, and at each hour and breath,
Today is the 19th day in a row that I’ve written and posted to my blog and cross-posted on BlogHer, part of the commitment I made to the glorious madness known as National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. The other day, while speeding through the BlogHer site to post my essay, I spotted a photograph on a syndicated NaBloPoMo post that pretty much sums up what it’s like to write in such a frenzied blur. The writer illustrated her essay with a photo of her laptop.
Big deal, you say? It was perched on the toilet.
For obsessives—and writers are nothing if not obsessive—this image is gold.
Dawn’s post inspired me to write about NaBloPoMo again. The challenge served as my subject twice: when I wrote and posted my very first NaBloPoMo submission, way back in the dark ages of November 1, and the day after, when I learned that the editors at BlogHer had syndicated it, thus giving me a huge boost of energy from which to tap. Now, 19 days later, we’re all more than halfway home and more than a little exhausted.
One of the added values of NaBloPoMo is the demand that it makes on one’s discipline as a writer. Posting an essay every day for 30 days straight yields such a prolific output as to turn everyone participating into the Joyce Carol Oates of blogging. I’ve never written so much of my own work at such a consistent pace in my life. And I’m 55. That’s a long time. (I really don’t count my professional output from years spent writing for other people and organizations.)
A word about that. Years ago, when I first began life as a salaried writer, a lovely author named Diane Vreuls said to me, “Be careful. Pay the bills, but try to avoid jobs that have you write. It can get in the way.”
It did. I churned out press releases, faculty bios, tip-sheets, magazine articles, and—with the advent of the Internet, web stories. But I did little to no writing of my own. The exhaustion that sets in from being creative for hire while balancing home and family left me dry. And I missed the poet I used to be.
Majoring in English with a emphasis as a non-traditional student at Oberlin College, I had studied with Diane’s husband, the poet, translator, and literary editor Stuart Friebert. My particular focus was poetry, and I was required to present a poem for critique in Stuart’s poetry workshop every week. He used to quote Grace Paley to us: “A poem a day keeps the prose doctor away.”
Those days of “a poem a day”—from around 1987 to 1991—represent the last time I experienced such prolonged outbursts of creativity. Until, that is, this month. So thank you, NaBloPoMo, for reminding me (and I do need reminding, for life gets in the way) that there’s a reason for writing every day. It’s no longer because I “have to” in the assignment-sense; it’s because I have to, as in “I need to.” As in the survival sense.
Note: In a metanarrative kinda way, if you link to Diane’s name in this post, you’ll be taken to an article I wrote about her on the occasion of her retirement from the faculty at Oberlin College.