Slight Savagery


I just spent a few minutes howling at Candace’s latest blog post, and noticed she had this quote posted:

Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. -Jessamyn West

Well, that’s an understatement. I know there are those who subscribe to the “grab fifteen minutes wherever you are” writing philosophy, and I’m sure it works for several of them. Kind of like knitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office – sooner or later you have a whole sweater. It’s not working for me, though. That fifteen minutes only whets my appetite for a throw-down, pot-of-coffee, tweaking-the-infinite kind of writing session. It’s the whole reason I write at all. The joy is in total ink immersion.

There’s also the undiagnosed ADD thing I’ve got going on. Every little shiny thing distracts me, so it’s a much better plan for me to schedule uninterrupted alone time if I’m ever going to finish something longer than a poem. Hmmmm. That may be the reason I’ve always written poetry.

The thing is, I don’t really want to become the savage, slight or otherwise, I’d have to be to family, friends, students – anyone – just to get the writing done. There’s entirely too much Southern, 1960s upbringing in the way and I’ll never make enough money to have that therapeutically extricated from my DNA. I’m not sure it’s possible, anyway. I was bred to be cheerfully interrupted.

Years of single-parenthood didn’t help. When you’re the only grown-up in the house, there’s no such thing as Time Alone unless you lose a lot of sleep. I did, in fact, almost never sleep. For years. I wrote a great deal, but always with one ear listening for midnight bad dreams. that’s as close as it gets for many women and it only gets worse when you’re watching the clock on prom night.

Why, even Jessamyn West only began writing when she was recovering from tuberculosis. I’m not ready to contract an extended and dread disease to get that writing time I crave. And she was from Indiana. I’m not sure how that figures in, really, but I imagine it has something to do with a Northern ability to set personal boundaries. I may be making that part up.

Even as I write this I can hear The Perfect Grandson squealing and slamming toys and such in the next room. This wreaks havoc on that “sustain and complete” business. Not because he’s an annoying distraction, though – it’s because I want to be in there, delighting in his every moment. In a minute or two the phone will ring or the dryer will buzz and I’ll wander away. Happens every time.

2 thoughts on “Slight Savagery

  1. I’m supposed to be working on my website right now. Actually, since approximately 10:00 AM. So far, I’ve stopped half a dozen time to put aloe on sunburned backs, make a pitcher tea for thirsty children, obsessively check my e-mail and Google reader and run outside to see how Dave’s yard work is coming. And all that laundry-well, it’s not going to do itself. I don’t think I’d know what to do if someone or something wasn’t interrupting me all the time. Probably sleep, which won’t the writing done, either.

  2. Uh, I just re-read my comment and it sounds like I’m all jacked up on the wine and Xanax again. What I meant to say was I’ve stopped a half a dozen times and sleeping won’t get the writing done either. Mother of God…

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