You get there by realizing you are already there. -Eckhart Tolle
Two years ago I sat sobbing in my boyfriend’s car. Earlier that day, the PhD program I’d applied to called me to schedule an interview.
“What if I get in? Then what am I going to do?” Fat tears ran down my face, fear ripped at my heart.
I have found music invaluable in my process of daily “butt in chair” meditation. When I sit down to write, I aim for flow. Thelonious Monk’s compositions give me a path for flow and inspire me to take improvisational chances in my writing. He is my companion in those long hours alone and his level of genius is my aim (in life…as an academic…in research).
Graphic from http://foolishfire.com/2012/12/24/quote-from-the-right-reverend-thelonious-monk/thelonious-monk/
The hardest thing about meeting any challenging goal is the day to day drudgery. Showing up at my desk, each day, unwavering. Sometimes I’m distracted and write total crap. Sometimes I get flow. Always it feels like “I’m digging all the way to China with a silver spoon” (Tom Waits). And yet, I don’t stop. Like in love, it is commitment that makes me steadfast. This dissertation may be breaking my bones, but I’m still laughing.
“A scrupulous writer”, observed Orwell, “in every sentence that he writes will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”
Bill, liquor store clerk: “What can I help you find?”
Me: “I’m looking for a beer for writing.”
Bill: “What are you writing?”
Me: “A dissertation.”
Bill: “Most people stay away from drinking when they write.”
Me: “Hemingway didn’t. ”
I feel the weight of the hours between now and the moment I force myself to sit at my desk and write. The span of time between now and my writing time feels corporeal, dense. In my head, I am an explorer: machete-hacking through the underbrush of my anxiety.