daily fieldnotes

On Writing 4

I do not find it hard to write every day.

Like the explorers of old whose journals have taught us about history, I feel hardwired to write things down, and when I’m traveling, even more. After a very late night with friends talking and arguing over Spanish politics and history, my head hums with ideas. I get up after 2.5 hours sleep, give Basil breakfast, and then sit down and type 1000 words. When we were in London a few weeks ago, I stayed up later than anyone else, writing about the party boats sliding by on the Thames outside the window, the book I was reading, and the meaning of losing oneself in a novel. When I’m at the park with Basil back home, I notice the conversations children have, or the group of nannies I see there every day, and later jot things down in my notebook on the way home.

Gathering material is not the hard part for me. The challenge is turning it into something I want others to read. This is why I blog, and why, since finishing my degree, I have started working more on the craft of writing. I have never had formal training in writing and I feel like I have a lot to learn.

Stephen King says, in his book On Writing, that if you want to be a writer, you should do two things: read a lot, and write a lot. So I read the latest Atlantic cover to cover, noticing how the essays are written. I play around with beginnings for an essay about my research on language and national identity. I re-read Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, and Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. I go through The Best American Essays 2012 and read the first paragraph of each essay and copy down the first sentence of a dozen. Then I work on my essay, trying to incorporate elements that the best writers use.

Everyone says that if you want to be a serious writer, you need to submit pieces for publication. I feel like I’m in kindergarten when I think about publication. Sure I show up and write, but who am I to publish something? Blogging is wonderful because it’s a place to put my writing out there, and experience how writing is a conversation. It’s a community where I can appreciate others’ writing, and be inspired. It’s a way of practicing the craft of writing, and support others in doing the same.

But blogging every day? I have been trying hard this month since joining Megsie in the challenge. And I am seeing how good it is. How it becomes more of a conversation with other blogging friends. How it has me trying harder to implement what I’m learning about essay writing into my posts. How it pushes me risk a little more, try a little harder.

So I get back on the horse and post, though I’ve missed a day. I think about what my goal will be after July.

And I keep writing, every day.


  1. Megsie

    07/14/2013 at 3:02 pm

    I am not a writer. Not even close. In fact, it is not really what I am striving for. I know that I dangle my participles all over the place and my craft is more like splatter painting. But, I love being a part of this community. When I am writing my posts for the day, I am usually so tired I am falling asleep. I am a little disappointed that I posted my “feminism” piece so soon, that is one I would have worked harder on, and I should have kept it as a draft to go back over when I was more awake. I forgot a whole section! And, it was too long already. I am still glad I wrote it though.

    So, reading your post just now, I almost feel guilty. You are working so hard to get it all right (and it totally shows, you are a beautiful writer!). I am doing little more than free writing before going to bed.

    Writing every day is so hard for me, yet it is becoming more of a habit now. I have yet to really start writing in my new notebook though. I go through writing jags, where I write all the time and then I can go months not writing at all.

    I love the conversations and the beautiful writing that I read in blogs. I am just joining in to add my voice to the conversation. You, on the other hand, you have the potential to be a true writer. An author. I am so lucky to have you as one of my bloggy friends!

    • Willow

      07/18/2013 at 7:00 pm

      Thank you for your faith in me! I totally disagree that you’re not a writer… you so are. I guess it raises the question of what it means to be a writer. I think it means a lot of things. Joining a broader conversation definitely makes you a writer, I think!

  2. Christina Rosalie

    07/19/2013 at 10:45 am

    I don’t find it hard to write–it’s not the writing itself that is hard for me. It’s the carving out time. It’s such a gift you are giving yourself: this window of time between finishing your PHD and whatever comes, and a blessing too that you have the finances to do so right now. That, always, is the push for me. If I had enough of a cushion, I’d write all day long. But therein lies my unique challenge: to fit writing into a life filled with other work commitments.

    What I’m intrigued by in this post though, is that you seem to be able to function on such little sleep. I’m not sure what it is–cumulative exhaustion, cumulative stress (who knows?) but this past year I’ve found myself needing sleep more. And in the past month I really gave in to that need, and have been trying to get 8 hours of sleep every night. It’s made a huge difference for me, in terms of feeling balanced and happy and fulfilled. I’m more patient, more playful too. But at the edges of my mind there hums this hunger: to be writing all the time.

    But somehow I feel like I’m in recovery mode still–and I’ve found I need to rebuild old habits that were once solid: exercise, writing, etc. I’m going to explore that more this month–in writing just a paragraph on my blog every day.

    I love this post so much. Your tone, the sentences, the ideas. xxo.

    • Willow

      07/26/2013 at 10:36 am

      Yes, I can function on very little sleep, but only temporarily! I actually find that when I’m traveling, I go into adrenaline mode and that makes it easier to sleep less. In normal, daily life though, it’s not so easy…


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