Essay Camp Day 2
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” —Jack London1
Welcome back to the second day of Essay Camp.
How did it go yesterday? How did it feel? Was it easy or hard, fluid or stagnant? Do you feel awake when you write, or are you sleepwalking through your sentences? All of the above experiences are normal and okay at this stage.
To write on any one day might be called a fluke, an accident. But to write for two days in a row begins to establish a pattern.
During last year’s Essay Camp, I invoked the image of a greenhouse. To establish a regular writing practice is a little like building a greenhouse, a space that is protected from the elements, where tender things can grow. Each sentence, each paragraph, each page and half formed thought, are like germinating seeds that might someday take root and grow into something bigger. Later on you may find yourself repotting and replanting, pruning and combining species to form a garden. But for now all you have to focus on is shaking those seeds loose, getting them out of your head and sticking them in the soil.
Some writers believe in the power of a daily word count. Others depend on writing for an allotted period of time every day, or rely on a particular routine. My college writing teacher, Mary Oliver, would rise each morning at 4am and go walking over the campus fields in the dark, before sitting down at her desk to write. Sometimes nothing much would come, she said, but she was there each day, unfailingly, to be present for those times when something did.
For most of us, a writing habit is not something that we establish just one time. Sure, maybe somewhere there is a writer (probably a man) who figured out what worked for him sometime around the age of 25, and then just kept doing it every day for the next sixty years. But in reality, a writing practice is usually something that we carve out and then lose again. We figure out something that works, we do it for a while—for days, or weeks, or years—and then something intervenes to throw us off again. Our day jobs, or our relationships, our families or our health. We have to fight to get it back, over and over and over again. It takes patience, dedication, and most of all commitment.
The second day of Essay Camp is still just about getting words down on the page. It’s about showing up, and turning on the faucet.
So without further ado, let’s get to it.
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