One recent day – one of those ‘I have enough time’ but not tons of time to sit down and write, that was a day when more than usual flowed.
I wrote three columns. Not ‘ready for publishing’ immediately, not polished, but substantially complete. This is #3 of that trilogy. Going Through, Learning Netflix and this one, Plunking.
Three is better than expected. Most days I have one thing rolling in my belly/brain which overrides the competition for my early morning attention. In my mind, something I cannot purge, from last night’s Netflix watching. On my desktop I was plunking away at some routine administrative tasks while sampling some Netflix offerings on the other screen. But then I stopped. This was more important than plonking away, more demanding than ‘gassing up my vehicle and getting it washed’ before today – more important than the next five important files laid out on the dining room table craving my attention – as if they are saying, “pick me next, pick me next”.
The Netflix offering which grabbed and held my attention was a fascinating film – a documentary on the life of Joan Didion. Acclaimed writer, spectacular human, a bit weird, a bit eccentric – I felt immediately at home, drawn in and mesmerized by the film, by Joan.
As a writer who wants to be a better writer, I enjoy listening to writers – especially really accomplished ones – talk about their lives, their journey and particularly their process. I’ve also read/heard that focusing on process is poppycock. What intrigues me more than anything is every time I hear a writer discussing something they do, something which contributes to their ‘way of writing’ that sounds like something I do or have done. I connect with it. I also connect with hockey and tennis stars talking about their ways. I never had the size or skills to be a hockey star. I never had the size, coaching or opportunity to play indoors in the winter so I never became a tennis star. But writing, that’s another thing. I didn’t discover it was a child like Joan did. I didn’t study writing in school – or ever, like so many great writers have. So why do I see myself as a writer then? I don’t think it is so much seeing myself as one as being one. Do. Do. Do again. Do over. Do. Do.
And I do. Every day. Writing is an easy companion. It doesn’t cost anything – except the time it takes, the time it takes away from every other thing you might be doing. It’s anti-social. I learned a long time ago that I can’t write very well if someone is in the next room – even if they are silent, I still know they are there.
This column is getting long now and I’m running out of time. My recommendation, for those who have access to Netflix – watch ‘Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold’. It won’t make you a successful writer, but it will make you want to be.
P.S.: for those who don’t have Netflix – and for everyone who does, there is a lot Joan Didion to be watched on YouTube as well; including an audio book - nearly five hours. I could listen to that while I plunk along.