Well, it’s been a week – ok – more than a week – of writing on – stories. The puppets that drive the blog have had laryngitis, you see. They have been tracking Kourtney Kardashian’s advice for tea with ginger, lemon and honey, and slowly they are getting better. Kenne reminds me that it is a matter of discipline when it comes to getting better when one is sick. And of course, I can’t leave this topic of stories without addressing the issue of discipline in writing, so here we go.
Ah, discipline. For years, my parents tried to instill this in me. Kenne, who as you will recall is the little – and get M. to mind his as well – she is in cahoots with my parents on this matter. They had us up at 6 a.m. and to bed by 8 p.m. on school days. Dinner was always at 7 p.m. during the school year. We had structured time for play and structured time for homework. We had structured time for etiquette lessons at my Granny’s who wants me to mind my mannersAnglican church on Cape Cod in the summers. My parents exhibited a stick-to-it-ness, as my Mum referred to it, that rivaled gum on the bottom of your shoe – it would not leave. As a child, even my creative writing was scheduled (after daily needlepoint, which I hated, and was terrible at – remind me to tell you about “the oppositional Q” in my alphabet sampler sometime).
I, however, am not built like this, some sort of disciplined, controlled machine of a person. Zenne, the nervous nellie puppet, has started to wring her hands at this. Many a time, I wish I were built in the form of a disciplined lot. Kenne clucks her approval at this, a sign of hope vis-a-vis my potential to pull myself up by my bootstraps. For me, when it comes to getting work done, the “muse” of sorts has to be there. It is awfully hard to jump-start a muse, you know. Take it from me, I’ve tried many times with jumper cables of all different sorts (think: Red Bull energy drink, self-loathing, pep-talks, etc.) Right now I notice that Hacivad Bey strokes his mustache, and looks at me intently, seeing what it is that I will say next.
This week has a lot to do with discipline. It is, you see, the week when I have my tenure hearing at my University. Tenure, or “job for life” barring the unforseen unforgivable act, depends on being a good teacher (well, at my University anyway, which is what it should be about, after all), a good community member (within and external to the University in the form of community service) and a good scholar. Now, as someone who loves to write and for whom this is a fairly easy chore that I do not see as such, this has not been a huge problem.
But as I sit here, thinking about the last 7 years, I have really been driven by fear. I have some sort of whip-cracking Writamatrix puppet who has constantly been on my butt to write STUFF THAT MATTERS and STUFF THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Not a bad thing to engage in writing for those goals. However, it is just that for years now, I jump-started myself as a result of Writamatrix, the academic muse out of the need to PRODUCE PRODUCT for tenure, like a good worker bee, eh? I am thinking of Marx and the Alienation of Labor now. But in any case, at the moment, I have some academic writing I would like to do, but that muse, a.k.a. the Writamatrix, must be on vacation down in the Tierra del Fuego, in Chile. I’m totally serious. All that muse wants to do is “chillax,” as my students say. Karagöz is not chillaxin’ – “She’s left you with her slacker cousin, that Esma the little hippie, you know, the Belly Button Gazer, who just wants you to write about life, writing, stories and – oh yeah – relationships. You’ll never write any of that academic crap that nobody reads anyway ever again!! Ha!”
Yehuda Rebbe sighs at Karagöz, nods his head in my direction, and recalling his knowledge of the Christian bible, and how the Protestant Work Ethic draws so much from it, comments that the Writamatrix, well, she must be a Protestant, and not to worry, Protestants always find their way back home. Esma, the tiny, often-meditating hippie puppet, on the other hand, is ignoring Karagöz (and Yehuda Rebbe, although she respects him greatly) totally (that’s where meditation comes in handy) and she reminds me that there is always a third way in life. Jumping onto my keyboard, she leads me to an interview with Elif Şafak (Elif Shafak in American parlance), where she is asked about her writing process. Ms. Şafak has this to say about writing:
“I am not someone who writes with the same pace every day. I do not have fixed working hours. Instead I have an inner pendulum. When the pendulum swings to one end, I start writing my new novel. Then I write nonstop, day and night. I feel pulled into the story, and I live with the characters inside my mind. This goes on for months and months. When the novel is over, the pendulum swings to the other end. Then I do other things. I socialize more, I travel more. I become a student of life again.” (You can see her full interview, of which this is an excerpt, here). Well, at least I fall in a camp with good company, those who write as their muse wishes, when their muse returns from her sojourns to different parts of the globe, as in my case.
Karagöz is jumping up and down – screaming the following “Ignore that little hippie,” he says, “please meet my good friend Hacıyatmaz (“hah-juh-yacht-mahz”) the roly-poly doll who always bounces back like crazy until you break him – or finish playing and put him on his side. the Writamatrix, that vixen, she sent him here – she knows you need a break from academic writing – but not from your own! No sleep til Brooklyn, as the Beastie Boys say!” Before I know what Karagöz is talking about, a new puppet wobbles his way across the floor to my feet, and wobbles, back-and-forth, back-and-forth in seeming eternity. “Hello, m’lady,” he whispers with a giddy air, “I am Hacıyatmaz, I and I am here until you stop writing for YOURSELF, which is going to be never, so you’d better get used to me! You gave up once before when you didn’t join the special art and writers curriculum as a kid, but you will not do this again – not again! My roly-poly status will remind you that all of that pent-up writer is deep in there – you can do all the academic writing you want – but don’t forget about the other side of you too.” The grating sound of the round bottom of this new puppet is all I can hear on the table in front of me. It will-not-stop unless I produce enough writing for one post a day – even if it is three week’s worth at a time for posting out. I guess I am in for writer’s cramp now.
- On stories – and on being human (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Elif Şafak on stories as wall-breakers: Crossing circles, moving between (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Stories make the world go round – or – where the Karagöz puppets came from (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- On the 1st day of Christmas: Meet Esma, the hippie Karagöz puppet (slowly-by-slowly.com)