Well, according to my interpretation, it means that I'm taking my thesis writing much too seriously and if I approached it in the same way that I approach this blog, then I would have been done months, no, years ago. (But I've tried that...and it's not as easy as it sounds.)
I have to admit, it hasn't been going well. I've been dedicated though (too bad they don't hand out diplomas for dedication). I have successfully hibernated for the past 3 days, only taking breaks for walking Anu, half of a movie, and dinner at a Chinese restaurant with my ever-loving husband. In the past three days I've written roughly 4 or 5 pages. Half of that is usable material. And the other half is...well? It might make for a good place to start another day...or it might be met by a slow death in the files of Microsoft Word. Only time will tell.
Today, as Anu and I walked in the woods, my boots creaked in the snow. We were alone and it was quiet and, as I followed the snow-packed path, I was reminded of a word that I learned in
I've been thinking about that word, pugdandi, ever since it came to me as I looked at the cold, white path stretching out in front of me. The sun was so bright that the world felt bleached. For a moment, my vision felt clearer.
I went home and convinced myself to do a freewrite. I used to make my students do this to get them loosened up. And when things get tough, I try to take my own advice. I wrote the word "Pugdandi" at the top of the page and then I started to write. The first sentence out of the end of my pen was: "I think what a pugdandi is, for me, is a path that leads me to writing."
For months now I have been trying to tell the story of my encounter with
I have walked back and forth so many times between my memories and my writing that I have worn my own path. It has become a path of need. One that, no matter how difficult it has been, I cannot seem to walk away from.
I couldn't remember what I disliked about it so much, but out of curiousity I opened it up at random and started to read. This is what I found:
Just as any reasonable person who looks at water, and passes a hand through it, can see that it would not hold a person up; so it is the judgement of commonsense people that reliance on the weak material of students' experiences cannot possibly sustain a work of literature. But swimmers know that if they relax on the water it will prove to be miraculously buoyant; and writers know that a succession of little strokes on the material nearest them--without any prejudgments about the specific gravity of the topic or the reasonableness of their expectations--will result in creative progress. Writers are persons who write; swimmers are (and from teaching a child I know how hard it is to persuade a reasonable person of this)--swimmers are persons who relax in the water, let their heads go down, and reach out with ease and confidence.My god. I've been so goddamned tense, it's a wonder that I didn't drown a long time ago. I didn't find anything else in the whole book that I liked. But that paragraph spoke to me.
It's the same story over and over again. I sit down to write this blog post and I'm miraculously able to do it in one breath. When I sit down to work on my thesis, it may take me 12 hours or two months to write the same amount of material. This feeling of tension is a very real sensation. My words and my sentences get constipated. I feel a tight knot form in my stomach.
One summer a few years ago, I used to go down to the Mississippi River with my dogs and a few friends to go swimming. We had to drive way back into the woods down old logging roads to get there. But, once there, it was always quiet and peaceful. The river was fairly narrow, but deep. The bottom was sandy and there was a current. I'd go there every day after work and was always tired and tense from the day's stresses. But then I'd dive into the river somewhere upstream and float on my back all the way down to the rope swing. Then I'd get out and do it all over again. In the water, I'd let my arms float outward. Relaxed, absolutely relaxed, I would look up into the sky. I felt like I was floating with the clouds. And I was.
I keep returning to writing like my life depends on it. And, in a way, I guess it does. But I picked up too many insecurities while in grad school. If I could do anything, I would sit down and write as though I were swimming. I would forget about gravity. I would set aside expectations.
The funny thing is...that's what I'm doing right now. I guess it's just a matter of letting go.
Next week I will be starting Finding Water and I've already decided what I'm going to do on my first artist's date. Yep, you guessed it--I'm going swimming.