Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thoughts at 4:00 A.M.

I've been thinking a lot about this book I'm hoping to write. I spent several hours tonight reading and writing some things and mulling it over. I'm finding myself running into a big hurdle though: it seems so pretentious and audacious to say you're planning to write a book. There's a quick thought that follows immediately upon thinking that, which says, "what do you have to contribute that others would benefit from?"

Here's the deal: I know that what I plan to write is a book I wish I had 20 years ago, and when I think of it, I try to imagine that I'm writing it to me back then. And I know that all of those doubts, and hurdles, are probably the best sign that I indeed have something to say, and that indeed I need to write this book.

I'm fond of something that my performance coach said to me once about trombone playing: "Every thought that goes through your head, and everything that happens to you leading up to playing a difficult passage means you're going to play well. Just decide that everything is a sign you're going to play well, even the doubt you feel."

When I played Beethoven 6 a month or so ago, I had feelings of doubt and a feeling like I was a fraud, with comments running through my head saying, "YOU'RE not an alto trombone player! Who are you kidding?"

It was at that point where I said, "Hey...Mr. Negative...thanks for showing up. It's not the same without you, and when you show up, as you always do, it's just proof positive that everything's going to go well." It's surprising how effective that can be.

I'm beginning to think that these thoughts accusing me of being audacious and presumptuous about writing a book are from the same source as Mr. Negative, and proof that I'm definitely doing the right thing. I'd say that those doubts in trombone playing, and in this new endeavor of my life, are coming from a certain place, and if that's the case, then I for sure need to write this book.

But man...it's been frustrating the few times I've had a chance to sit down and write. (Um...I've not been able to maintain my goal of two hours a day. Wishful thinking, that.) When I try to write thoughts in my draft, it's a mumbo jumbo, with no flow. I'm really trying hard to find the form of the book. I have the big picture in mind, and have a lot of the individual chapters envisioned in my mind, with many quotations I plan to include, but sorting it all out into a cohesive whole is very daunting. I find as I write that I keep thinking about the overall arc of the book, and not just writing in the moment. Beyond that, I keep thinking what some phantom critical reviewer would say about what I just wrote. How weird is that? I've got to break loose from that particular albatross, and just write.

I think I should cut myself a little slack though. I've never written a book.

2 comments:

alison said...

Sit in the chair.

Write. Don't cringe at what comes out, don't edit as you go, just tell the story. Picture telling the younger you your story to give him hope and encouragement.

Don't try to justify yourself or your message, that will surely paralyze you. Trust me here.

It's just building muscle, Dan. The first time you got on the mat you couldn't do the Roll Up, but aren't you glad you didn't throw in the towel. It took practice and patience with yourself to develop the strength to do it. Same thing. I'm just understanding this myself.

Dan said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I had a flash of and idea of a new chapter this morning, and pulled out my computer and typed away like a madman. I knocked out a little over two pages in about an hour, and I felt the "flow" for the first time.

Viewing myself writing to a younger me is so incredibly helpful. It brings a passion and urgency, as well as immense compassion that I think is going to help me.

I remember you telling me about five or so years ago that I would write to tell me story.

You were right.