All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
by Kate Barrett
A few weeks ago I stuck around Lighthouse after classes had started for the evening to try pumping out a few words. I wanted to see if it might work better to write while other people were talking about writing, as opposed to writing in my living room where roommates and dogs come and go, and sometimes I’m called upon to chase mice from the kitchen, or come outside, or taste a new brew, or just be generally present in the right-now lives of people I care about. It’s a total pain.
But of course, I met no more success staying at Lighthouse than I did at home. Friends kept popping their heads out of classes, passing by my desk, saying hello, how are you, what are you writing, and I was genuinely glad to see every one of them. Lumans, a fabulous instructor who teaches fiction here often, passed by and I told him my dilemma.
“I stayed here to write but I’ve been here for hours and there are just so many good people to talk to instead.”
He responded with a mantra that, if you take a class from him at any point, you’re likely to hear: “The world wants you to eat cotton candy and go to the zoo every day.”
That phrase has since been cropping up maybe a little too often.
Saturday: I was going to write, but then my mom wanted to ride bikes to go look at puppies. I kid you not—puppies. My heart will shrivel up and blow away in a bitter cold wind before I turn that down.
Sunday: I was going to write, and then I went to brunch instead.
Monday: I was going to write, but then I made dinner with a close friend who will be moving away soon, drank some wine, and cried with her over how overwhelming life choices are. It felt cathartic and awesome.
Today: I was planning to write tonight, but then I got invited to a trivia competition with a cover charge that includes chicken wings and beer.
The world most definitely wants me to eat cotton candy and go to the zoo. Every. Single. Day. At this point, we’re part of the way through February which means it’s right about time for everyone to start giving up, if they haven’t already. See you all back at the gym next January. As writers, we’re told early and often that we need to keep our chops up. Write every day, even when you don’t want to, even when it’s painful, even when it’s garbage. It would make sense to reiterate that advice here. After all, I do believe in resolutions and in renewing them. They make us look good, and we should all pretend to be better people as often as possible—fake it ‘til you make it, honey, as my grandmother used to say.
But listen—I’m going to go eat chicken wings, and drink beer, and pretend to know the answers to many questions tonight. I’m not going to write. And I’m going to feel great about it.
I’m probably justifying bad behavior here, but sometimes I worry we’re taught the virtues of deprivation too often. We forget that writing is as much about indulgence as it is about discipline. Sometimes we need to go to the zoo, dammit. And sometimes we need to stay at the zoo for four days in a row, maybe even a week, or a couple of years. However long it takes to get tired of cotton candy and animals. That’s when it’s time to sit down, wake up our senses, and remember what it was like to be sick with joy—like literally sick, bent over a trash can hurling up the marvel that is spun sugar.
Contrary to the popular image of the depressive writer, I find I produce the most when I’m happy. I think, also, too much discipline is a recipe for self-loathing. It’s too easy to fall short. So I guess I’m making a case for procrastination, at least if it means doing other wonderful things. Let us not forget there are many people to love, relationships to indulge, pleasures to be grateful for. For me, writing takes precedence only when those things lose some luster, when I need to remind myself—by way of fictional characters or extended contemplation or just plain distance—what a big, beautiful, bizarre place it is we live in.
That said, I’m going to write tomorrow. I swear.
“Resolution Write” is a blog series offering writing tips from Lighthouse faculty and members. We’ll feature posts to inspire writers who’ve resolved to make 2015 a productive and successful writing year.
Kate Barrett is Lighthouse’s Program Coordinator. She writes short fiction and dabbles in poetry when she’s feeling bold. Before coming to Lighthouse, Kate worked in various capacities for the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming. If she’s not writing, you can usually find her biking, running, snowboarding, eating tasty things, petting dogs, or demonstrating her awesome powers of at-will napping.