Works in Progress

Photo: Les Anderson

I am a work in progress dressed in the fabric of a world unfolding. – Ani DiFranco

On days like this, when I’ve started and deleted three different blog posts, it can be easy to feel discouraged or doubtful. All or nothing thinking spills over, threatening to flood my thoughts. I take this a signal to step back and give it a rest, and turn to reading other people’s work instead. I have no idea what I will write next; what will have legs, what will stand up on its own two feet and dance a two-step around the kitchen.

It’s time to pick Pearl up from Hebrew School. Our synagogue has not received any bomb threats today, a fact that is made remarkable only by the fact that 20 JCCs on the East coast did receive bomb threats today, and this is the second time this month there’s been a spate of such calls. Aviva runs in to sign her out while I wait in the car. Parents and kids leave the building in twos and threes. I realize that every time I’ve entered the building since November, I’ve scanned the exterior for graffiti. For swastikas. It seems more like a “when” than an “if” at this point, a fact that makes me angry and frightened.

One of the failed blog posts I wrote and scrapped earlier was about parenting and time going by and kids growing up. It’s the kind of thing I would have written 10 years ago, and while it was fine and nice, it felt stale and safe. I don’t want to write safe and I don’t want to write stale.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s this: Not every blog post is a winner. Not every freewrite has hidden gems. Not every poem makes you weep.

I know there are writers who only share with the world the pieces that do hit a home run, whatever that means — who would never share unedited pieces or drafts or one-offs. I share so much of the latter that sometimes I wind up perverting my own practice.

Perfectionism is sneaky like that.

I want to wrap this up neatly with something inspiring, like “it gets easier.” But fuck that noise; platitudes don’t help us get stronger, and neat endings certainly don’t help me expand my ability to show up even when the writing just ain’t flowing. Nope. There’s no pretty ending here, no ribbon, no gift wrap. What I do know is this: I don’t give up nearly as easily as I used to. And if I waited for perfection, you would never read another word of mine, no exaggeration.

Real life happens every day; great writing happens sometimes, if we’re lucky — and if we take our seat, even when it doesn’t. And days like this? They are a gift in their own way, reminding me, as Ani wrote, that the writing, like life itself, is a work in progress, ever unfolding.

Now pull up a chair. At least we can order another espresso and do this thing together.

3 thoughts on “Works in Progress

  1. Nancy Jean says:

    Loved this, Jenna. I wonder if humans are wired to desire “pretty endings.” It’s a curse that keeps us unsatisfied and immobilized. Or maybe it’s nurture, not nature. We all grow up on a surfeit of books and movies with pretty endings and wonder what we’re doing wrong. And by pretty endings I guess I mean not literally pretty, but satisfying and right in some feeling way. Maybe we need more stories without endings to break us of the habit. An friend sent me a poem recently about the “Train of Life” and she accidently cut it off after this line: “The mystery of this fabulous journey is: ” I freaked out just a little bit.

    Like

    • Jena Schwartz says:

      I love that. It reminds me of something Pearl jotted down the other day: “If you want to be happy, be” — and that was it. I assumed a word was missing, but nope, just the period.

      Like

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