I learned a lot in the writing class that I recently took. Interestingly, one of the things I learned wasn't something necessarily related to the craft of writing.
There's nothing more awesome than taking a class with an instructor whose passion about the subject area is downright infectious. Unfortunately, that wasn't our teacher. Certainly, he's a nice guy, knows his craft well, gave lots of good pointers and feedback and such, but passion? Not really. Our teacher often seemed discontent. No doubt, a work week that included undergraduate composition class in the morning, noncredit adult students in the evening, and his own work during the day and late at night wasn't the most desirable. But hey, I have my own job to complain about.
On the first night of class, the teacher ticked off a list of what he referred to as the non-negotiable ground rules of the class. These covered writing assignments and class readings and such. And then he mentioned the key one: we had to pick a block of time, two hours, the same time each week, and that was going to be our writing time. Nothing, he said, was to take precedence over this block of writing time. According to our teacher, if we wanted to be serious writers, then this is one of the things that we must do.
I'm sure you can guess how this worked out for me.
Think about it: if you tell an ADDer that there's only one way to do something, it's only going to cause stress and rebellion. I tried our teacher's method for a couple of weeks, and it was an utter failure. I picked Sunday mornings, since I'm typically home at that time. I figured that he wouldn't give this advice if it wasn't going to work, so I'd do as I was asked.
On the first attempt, I stared at a blank Word document for about 20 minutes and then went to check my email, which led to a scan of the Sunday paper headlines and maybe a YouTube video...and magically, the two hours filled themselves nicely. Of course, I was kind of stressed that I didn't do my writing. But interestingly, I went about my day, and the story I was going to write started materializing in my head, which I then started writing later that evening.
On the second attempt, I was fairly hungover from my birthday party the previous night. Needless to say, I was yet again unsuccessful.
There was no third attempt.
I still felt some guilt about not being able to keep a writing appointment with myself. Do I not have it in me to be a serious writer? Oh, wait, do I want to be a "serious writer," anyway? Moreover, do I want to be a "serious writer" like my teacher purports to be?
I'd say yes, no, no. Yes - if I want to be a "serious writer," I can be. No - mainly because I don't know what that exactly means. And no - if it means that I'm going to walk around looking like I haven't eaten enough fiber and get cranky at my class, I'm not going to rack up tens of thousands in student loans to be that way.
Shortly after I came to this conclusion, I was telling my friend R. about this over dinner. R. was incredulous over the "writing block" notion. Certainly, R. thought that this may be a successful tactic for some people (which I certainly agree with). But, as R. said, "It's ridiculous for anyone to insist that there's only one way to do something. Especially writing! All you need to do to write is write!"
I really appreciated R.'s perspective on this. R's a non-ADDer, so hearing this assuaged my feelings that I wasn't able to comply with the teacher's edict because I lack discipline. In fact, I soon discovered that my way of kicking around story ideas in my head for a while before hitting the computer makes it a lot easier for me to write. This may not work for everyone, of course, and I wouldn't ever require anyone to try it if they knew of a way that worked better for them. In any case, you can thank my method for this blog post!