Mike Tyson: Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but nonetheless doing it like you love it.
Interviewer: And how do you that?
Mike Tyson: [Smiles] With discipline.
– from an interview in Details, July 2010
I am taking another writing class. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be, because that's the reason for a lot of the posts you see here these days. I'm not ready for class, I'm out of practice, I hope this class whips me into shape. Blah blah blah. (If you are still visiting this blog, thank you. And why?)
I'd hit a serious wall during May. There were lots of things I had no motivation to do, including reading and writing. Which was a problem that I chose to attack by ignoring it. I did have momentary freakouts. (Like, what will I do with the rest of my life if this desire is fading, along with all my other ones? Why can't I sustain any venture? And why doesn't netflix have the second season of Girls? It was a dark month.)
In June I avoided the issue by redecorating my bedroom, watching more tv on netflix, and making social plans to get out of the house. And then, just like I thought, one day I closed the netflix tab in my browser, and the next I went to the library and picked out three books. I sat in the reading room for 30 minutes to start one and felt my heart beating faster, in a good way. I recognized that feeling as pleasure. And later that afternoon, I attended my friend's book launch for her very first book of short stories, which she published herself. As she read from it, I recognized humility, pride and (here it is again) pleasure in her voice. At home, my housemates and I talked about her publishing company, and one said, "She should publish you, Betsy." Now, my housemates have barely even read what I've written, so I didn't take this very seriously. But I did hear myself say - holding the book I'd started reading in the library earlier that weekend - "this is the kind of book I'd want to write, one that requires research and interviews and that tells real stories."
Well, ok then.
I still don't know how to get there, but I took another small step and signed up for a four-week writing bootcamp, which started on Monday. Three hundred words (what a pittance!), five days a week (totally manageable!), and plus one essay of 1,000 words each week. On Monday I was hopeful, on Tuesday I started to resent my computer screen, on Wednesday I seriously considered dropping the class and getting some of my money back, on Thursday I woke up dreading life. I had some extra time that morning to get my 300 words out, but the thought made me find every excuse to not open a word document. I checked my email and saw some feedback from a classmate on the previous day's 300. I have to say that I think this woman might be deluded or need reading glasses, but nevertheless her response included exclamation points and the words "could win an award." I walked to the kitchen to get my coffee and realized this woman had just given me the courage to write that day - 300 words in the morning and my 1,000 word essay that night. And I actually kinda like what I wrote.
Tyson is right, and I'm guessing you all have your own stories to prove it, too. Love can grow from discipline, even if it was lost for a little while, and especially with some exclamation points from your friends.