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Going to the Well

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Feb. 20th, 2013 | 08:27 pm

In an interview with The Splendid Table, indie rap queen Dessa talks about eating on the road. Minding one’s daily calorie intake, honey for the voice, filling your pockets with condiments at the gas station, running for a salad in the time it takes to fill the tour van’s tank.

Yep.

But she also responds to the question, “Where do the lyrics come from?”

“…I’m not completely sure. I think sometimes it feels as I grow older, and you’ve had more bouts of inspiration and more dry spells, it feels more like kinda catching a wave than it does going to a well. So when you feel that a good lyric day is happening to you, it’s like, OK, what can I get off my calendar today, ‘cause I don’t get these every day. So you’re standing at the place lightning struck last time, but it’s still a game of odds and chance…it’s something that I don’t understand completely.”

One of the things I learned from the writing competition that I did last year was that I don’t have to wait for lightning to strike. I can go to the well, and going to the well every week starts to create its own wave, as if each bucket I throw into the reservoir makes a tiny ripple, and the more buckets I carry, the wider the ripples spread until I can start to surf them, flow with the ideas that form themselves into words and appear on the page like dirty magic.

But the first bucket sucks. It’s always got some shitty, splintery handle and a hole in the side and it’s exactly the right size to bang into my leg and leave bruises all over my knees. The first bucket is my so-called ‘writer buddy’ working a three-day weekend and then his biological mom comes into town for his birthday and WHERE’S MY FUCKING WRITING DATE YOU GODDAMN TRAITOR?

The first bucket is making too big a writing schedule and being pretty sure I’ll fail at it. Because making a schedule means I can trade the excuse of “I’m a great writer, I’m just lazy” for “I’m a great writer, I just take on too much.”

It’s the bucket of You Would Not Believe How Much I Can Cross Off My To-Do List Before I Sit Down to Write the First Word. Yeah, that shit’s on sale this week, so I stocked up.

It’s hard to remember that the buckets get better. Lighter. Easier to fill, the path to the reservoir shortening once I know the landmarks. That I don’t have to be under pressure to make a deadline. That the most successful and published writers I know are not waiting around for the wave to lift them up, they’re carrying buckets every day. They are not waiting for inspiration or agonizing about the meaning of creativity, they’re mining the goddamn coal.

So I’ve got this new schedule. I’m going to the well, five hours a day, five days a week. Stocking up on water while I don’t have a day job. Pouring it into the empty, cavernous reservoir, bucket by bucket. Trusting I’ll make some ripples, trusting they’ll make some waves.

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Comments {12}

notodette

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from: notodette
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
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“I’m a great writer, I just take on too much.”

I love this one. It's my fave.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
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I almost tagged this Darlena feel my pain :)

Hey, how's any day after tomorrow to get together?

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notodette

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from: notodette
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
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Good and great! Can you come to Gainesville, or shall I make the preparations to find a way to wherever you are?

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
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Lady, you have kids and a life :) I'm coming to you.

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notodette

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from: notodette
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 03:35 am (UTC)
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WINNER!

We could do Friday...either this or next. Meet for coffee in the afternoon at the least. Then if you are interested, you could chill with my AMAZING AND NOT ANNOYING AT ALL children and me, and I could scrounge for a babysitter for happy hour maybe. Then you're welcome to stay for AMAZING AND NOT ANNOYING AT ALL FAMILY DINNER.

So, shortest - regular, adult coffee.
Longest - coffee, pickup, happy hour, dinner.

Or anything in between.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
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Let's do next Friday! Your kids sound like loads of fun :)

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Andrea Blythe

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from: blythe025
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Love it.
It's all about doing the work, even if it's hard as hell, which sometimes it is.
I need to work at showing up to do the work a little more. For sure.
But writing is writing.

Good luck and efforts with sticking to your schedule! :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Thanks!

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drwex

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from: drwex
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
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10,000 hours.

Just like any other job.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
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Yep :) And I think the challenging part is that I've gotten to a level of practice where I'm good at the work, but it's difficult to then execute it and sell it. I'm not having a competence issue, I'm having a time management issue :) And there is that whole more-than-full-time-other-job-I-love thing that sabbatical is helping a lot with!

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Feb. 21st, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad it's gotten easier-- just the practice must help, and I remember again that you wrote every single topic in Idol 8, even when you could have used a 'bye.'

I love the whole paragraph that begins, "But the first bucket sucks." The way you write humor in that passage is just gold. :D

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:59 pm (UTC)
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Thanks :) Yeah, it's getting into a rhythm that helps the most - I asked myself yesterday, well, what did I do in India that led to so much writing? and the answer was "routine" :)

Glad you liked that bit - it's my favorite part!

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