Writing Changes Everything
The hardest part is sitting down.
Catherine Ann Jones
There are many necessary shifts as we get older, and this can often be quite confusing.
For instance, if one’s mind is active and feels no older than twenty-eight, it comes as something of a shock when the body does not follow suit.
For the past several years after I quit teaching graduate school, I began to be invited to teach across the States, UK, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. It was an adventure. Also, I am never bored teaching writing as each individual carries a unique story. And yet, this past year or two, I began to notice that trips abroad would take me longer and longer to return to normal. The shift now is trying to stay in this country for a while and when possible, even the same time zone.
“Time to write!” was my first thought. And yet, I seemed to get tired more easily so I would resort to the drug of my choice: Netflix or Amazon Prime or Britbox. Even discovered that three of my Hollywood efforts are now on Netflix. Unlike theatre, a screenwriter can leave a legacy of sorts. A nice feeling. Also true of books.
Well, before I noticed, weeks had gone by and the proposed new book got left behind.
Knowing I feel most myself when engaged in some creative pursuit. In my case, acting (still doing my one-woman play, Freud’s Oracle), teaching, or writing a play, screenplay, book, or online course (DailyOm.com)
I finally faced up that I had let myself drift and rest on former laurels. So, one fine day, I just decided to return to the desk. It was tough going at first as a race horse too long in green pastures. However, I remembered the quote I would always write on the board before each writing class or workshop, “The hardest part is sitting down.”. I thought the professor should learn so I did just that. That’s all it takes, once I sit down, I am committed, and the rest seems to take care of itself. The flow returns.
As Joyce Carol Oates once said, “I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes … and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
And indeed it does! I once called this ‘discipline’ but I’ve changed my mind about that.
Years ago, when I first moved to New York City to work in the theatre, I was invited to the art studio of Buffy Johnson, though now she is gone, her work hangs permanently in the Metropolitan Art Museum. She kept working as we visited and her work was very detailed, taking sometimes months to complete one painting.
As a young actor, I was moved to say, “I admire your discipline.” At this point, Buffy retorted, as if correcting me, “It’s not discipline, Catherine, it’s love.”
Writing is not just a commitment. It’s a relationship and for it to work, there must be love.