Let Me Sing You the Song of My People


One of the downsides of having a very productive month is that Normal People do not understand how amazing this is and ignore you and Writer People, who do understand, yes, my pretty, they understand All Too Well, resent you. Some of this divergence comes out of a misunderstanding about the creative process. I believe that Sustained Creative Productivity (SCP) requires a shitload of work and self-discipline, for a given value/definition of self-discipline. The word disciple simply means learner. So the kind of self-discipline I am talking about is really learning about yourself and your rhythms, motivations, inspiration. It can be scary, when you identify as a Writer People, to fall into a period of writers block or creative constipation. Like real constipation, it is painful. What is worse, it also threatens your identity. Like a bad knock-knock joke, you ask yourself, How can I Be a Writer if I am not writing? And the only answer you have is either, “Oooh, ooh, I know this one! The sound of one hand clapping!” or “I guess I am not.”

It feels a bit like that moment in Superman II when Clark Kent, who has thrown off his superpowers to be with Lois Lane, suddenly realizes that without his power, he is nothing. It is a crap feeling. (And can I just point out here something I have learned from a friend: if somebody ever tells you that the only way you can have love is to give up your super power, that person is singing the song of Patriarchal Oppression. Invite them out of your life. Then carry on loving and using your super power. Thank you, Jenna Tucker.)

I have often found that I get to the end of the academic year and I am so burnt out from teaching all year that I have nothing to work with. It is so frustrating because I have generally great weather and lots of time and nothing to show for it. And given that I did not always get a lot done during the two semesters, since I basically grade student papers two weeks out of every three, it meant I was not getting much done for the whole frigging year.

But lately, I have noticed that I am getting more done during the semester. This is due to a few things. First, from 2008 to 2012 I was teaching at two schools and doing a second Masters degree at a third (cuz it turns out the Masters degrees are collectible: get the whole set!). Ironically, I was doing this because I had gotten so burned out teaching. It was often a gruelling process to balance all that stuff, but, much like getting hit over the head with a baseball bat, it felt GREAT when it stopped. Suddenly I had extra time to do things, like write, or like watch old TV shows or read novels or pop culture textual criticism (cuz as an English teacher, I nerd hard).

Second, all those papers? There is a trick to using the thing you would rather not be doing as a counterbalance to what you do want to be doing. I can get any amount of writing done if I am staring at a pile of 38 student papers. Grade some, write some, grade some, write some. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Finally, if next month turns out to be One of Those Mays, dry, barren, devoid of writerly hope, etc., I will try not to worry about it and just call it a vacation. Read some light novels. Kick back for a change. Failing that, I can sing you the Song of My People:

I am not writing!

I am not writing!

I will neeeeeeeeever write again!

Woe betide me!

As the block rides me!

I will neeeeeeeeever write again!

It actually sounds a lot like the Darth Vader theme, now that I think about it, or possibly Wagner…

6 comments on “Let Me Sing You the Song of My People

  1. PJS says:

    In my mind, I hear the song sung not to Wagner but to the tune of “Oh My Darling Clementine.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wagner!! DEF Wagner


  3. It is like how you can sing any Emily Dickinson poem to Joy to the World, Amazing Grace or the Gilligans Island song…


  4. Widdershins says:

    Christopher Reeve – best Superman evah … except for maybe Superman III and definitely IV.

    I got ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All workers require vacations, but only writers seem to feel guilty when they take them. Enjoy your productivity and cherish the inevitable inactivity that follows.

    BTW: The true lyric to The Ride of the Valkyries is, “Kill the wabbit!”

    Liked by 1 person

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