Why, I write naturally. Why I write, naturally.

Let's stop, grandma. Let's stop grandma.

Let’s stop, grandma.
Let’s stop grandma.

That’s one of those sentences one might give college writing students to remind them of the importance of commas. You know, sentences such as, “Let’s stop grandma before it’s too late!” or “Let’s stop, grandma, before it’s too late.” (Can you tell I’m rethinking Flannery O’Connor in preparation for my classes?)

The clock says it’s only 4:26 AM, and I wake up with my mind going full-tilt (or, should I say, as fast as my mind ever works). I’m thinking about (at the same time) the opening sentence I was trying to construct for a short story last night; my uncertainty how I’m going to support myself a year from now; the noon meeting I need to attend but don’t want to; the need to use my cane if I do go to the meeting; the persistent low-level depression I’ve been in for who-knows-how-long and can’t seem to shake; my giggly delight that a young woman–a stranger–on the elevator at Mockingbird Station asked what my “Das Barbecue” t-shirt referred to; and the nonsensical contradictory messages I receive by email and Facebook–from why the President is acting like a certain German dictator by talking about bombing Syria to why depriving Americans of color of their right to vote is going to save the country; from why we must stop John Boehner from destroying the Affordable Health Care Act and along with it the nation to why gun control laws are somehow antithetical to the natural world and the moral universe, all of those ridiculous “causes” so many people are riled up over that it’s a wonder anyone can sleep.

Fortunately when I woke up at 3:40, none of these things was on my mind. That’s obviously not true–they were there waiting for the right moment to ambush me. If I wake up in the night (although I seldom do–my sleep may seem short to most people, but it’s usually deep and uninterrupted), I go back to sleep quickly. But I know exactly the moment I wake up and the night is over. The fact is, I think, that my brain is already in overdrive thinking about all of those absurdities, and it wakes me up. It doesn’t work the other way around. I don’t wake up and then start churning these useless thoughts around in my mind.

What I want to know is if that’s the way everyone wakes up.

One aspect of the experience is even more discomfiting than the mere waking up and knowing sleep is finished for the night. I have no choice what to do about it.

Why, I write, naturally.

I write about one or all of those subjects that has inserted itself into my mind uninvited. That is, if I’m lucky, I can choose one. Or I find something else to write about that will put those inanities out of my mind.t-shirt

My mother used to say I was always the first one out of bed in the morning. I doubt was writing at 4:30 AM when I was a kid. I don’t know exactly when that started. I know I signed up for organ practice hours beginning at 6 AM when I was in college.  But then I became a drunk, and all of my natural rhythms were suspended until I got sober. Much later. I was finally able to write my dissertation when I was 43 years old. That writing was almost always at 4 AM.

Soon after I finished my dissertation, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do when I grew up, and the serious (to me, at any rate) early morning writing began.

A few days ago a colleague, after I told her about this blog, told me she admired  my discipline in writing every day. Oh, how I wish that were the case.

Here’s what’s going on. It’s hard to tell if this is merely habit or if it some sort of compulsion I can’t control. The compulsion is real enough. Just read Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain. I don’t know how much if any of this applies to me, naturally. But I know how much of it seems to apply to me naturally.

Here’s my point this early morning. I know trying to get all of the stuff that’s whirling around in my head written down is my first priority of the day. Almost every day. And then there are the days I can’t. Can’t figure out where to get started naturally. And that, naturally, keeps me from writing and then I have a nagging frustration in my mind all day long.

And this is what the writing accomplishes. It takes away my almost constant feeling that

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (Shakespeare,  Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5)

Everyone knows this speech of Macbeth. But the next line in the play is hardly ever included when it is quoted. Macbeth says to the messenger who arrives while he is speaking, “Thou comest to use thy tongue; thy story quickly.”

Thy story quickly. That’s all I’m trying to do. Tell my story quickly so at least for an hour my life’s more than a walking shadow.

And you have your little compulsion, the thing you do every day that at least momentarily takes away your certain knowledge your “life’s but a walking shadow.” And you indulge that little compulsion, it seems to you, naturally.

Is it natural?

Is it natural?

One Response to Why, I write naturally. Why I write, naturally.

  1. meldow2012 says:

    Thank you Harold. OMG! I am experiencing a “compusulsion to write” lately. It keeps me up and sometimes wakes me up. Oh Lawd, here we go! Thanks, too, for your encouragement. I sure miss you!

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