Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

newsflash: muse thrives with daily attention

Filed in Writing :: June 13, 2010

IMG_0286Today is the sixth day of 21.5.800, the brilliant yoga and writing challenge from (I’m having trouble with my links–please click on the purple badge to the left for now.) Bindu challenges participants to 21 days in which we do yoga five times per week and write 800 words every day.

My yoga practice has been consistent enough over the past several months that committing to five days of yoga means that I have to pay more attention to scheduling and get to more classes. Bindu has allowed the grace of “counting” savasana, corpse pose, so worst case (and this is not so bad at all) I can do that at the end of the day if I haven’t made it to a class in a studio or practiced at home with a video. This at-least-savasana-every-day practice has been so restorative that I want to stick with it after the 21 days is up.

My writing practice is consistently inconsistent. One my writing teachers, John Dufresne, said matteroffactly (and he would hate that adverb) that no one really cares whether we ever write another word. I’ve thought about that many times since–people care whether I go to work, pay my bills, have food in the house for humans and dogs, show up for social events and even yoga classes. But if I’m not writing, only Mr. Z knows, and he usually lets the not-writing go on for a little while before he says, at a carefully chosen moment, “you haven’t written in a few days, have you?”

I might try to scam him and myself by saying that I’m “thinking” or “working things out in my subconscious,” but those are the lies I use when I want to avoid writing for some other reason or I’m just being lazy or recalcitrant or self-destructive. Sure, sometimes when I’m driving or talking or almost asleep, a little idea will come to mind, a memory will surface, or an association will be triggered, but these are just little snacks that i might not even remember, and they are no substitute for writing.

The only time I really work out an idea, come up with something new, or move forward with a project, either in the direction I’ve planned or a direction that takes me by surprise, is when my fingers tap a keyboard or hold a pen, laying down words on screen or paper. Period.

I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing about whether I’m a “writer”–I recommend pondering this question if you really want to burn up some time not writing. And I’ve spent a lot of time getting degrees to stop this agonizing (another time burner, but at least you learn things). Neither more thinking nor the complete alphabet after my name can satisfy this question.

Only the simple act of writing answers it. I want totally and without reservation to have publication and readers, but I am a writer if I’m writing, and writing damn near every day, and paying attention to why not, on the days when I don’t. And 800 words is a perfect minimum–not too big or too small–just right.

Here is my simple new plan, to be grooved into my brain over the next fifteen days and followed ever after: If I feel good enough and have enough time to floss my teeth (which I probably do 364 days a year), I feel good enough and have enough time to write at least 800 words.

Filed in Writing


  1. whollyjeanne

    that’s my girl. let’s eradicate the “you haven’t written in a few days, have you?” from mr. z’s vocabulary. i have a tendency to feel like – to think – i must write something earthshattering and life-changing every single day. oh, and post it on my blog so other people’s lives can be changed, too. (what i really mean but would be too embarrassed to say it aloud is i want other people to marvel at my insightfulness, at the way i stay present in the moment, at how wonderfully peaceful my life must be.) i get these frags – these little ideas, associations, memories you speak of – but i don’t nail my self to the pen long enough to see where they take me. i blame it on being interrupted – and most of the time that’s true. i took my mother to vancouver last fall, and the do-not-disturb door hangers said simply “peace.” i liked that so much, i tipped the housekeeper big and asked if i could have a few. i think it’s time to pull one out and put it to use. for others, and mostly for me. it’s nice knowing i’m not-the-only-one;)

  2. Square-Peg Karen

    I’m loving the 21.5.800 challenge too! I’ve been using Dr. Wicked’s online Write or Die thingy to push me (besides, I’m lazy – and it counts the words for me) — it’s actually fun to get those 800 words in!!
    Angela, what you said here: “The only time I really work out an idea, come up with something new, or move forward…is when my fingers tap a keyboard or hold a pen, laying down words on screen or paper. Period.” is SO true, and yet — ohmyword, how easy (come up with &) believe those stories about what else HAS to get done first…
    I’m hoping my brain gets into the groove (or the grooves get into my brain) during the 21 days of 21.5.800 too — because, like you said: “Only the simple act of writing answers it.” Thanks for this!!