I don’t write every day. I don’t keep a journal. I’ve tried, Thor knows I’ve tried; I have probably ten journals from the past five years tucked away throughout my dinky room, each with the first dozen pages peppered with fragments and false starts. The rest of the pages are blank. Sometimes, during the night, I wake with shame and regret and think: I should really write something. But it is dark and I am not wearing pants, and I cannot write pantless.
I am terribly undisciplined in my writing practice. Before writing I do almost anything else: I read, I watch TV, I re-watch the entire Harry Potter series. Most of my writing process consists of listening, watching, and waiting. For what, I don’t know. As a MFA candidate I am supposed to be a craftsman, one who works regardless of whether he wants to or not, regardless of whether or not he feels like it. And I can, but it often turns into drudgery. It’s true: waiting for inspiration one can wait a long time, and one does not have to have anything in mind when they sit down to write. Much of writing is discovery. But it’s always best when one is moved to write. But there are many ways to be moved, and many ways we can move ourselves.
I like to write at night, at least, I tend to write more freely at night. So I pretty much wait all day for a few lines that I will most likely delete the next morning. I will not sit in front of the computer for more than ten minutes if nothing is happening, because I think the longer you sit in front of a blank document the less likely it is that something will happen. If you’ve been sitting there for more than ten minutes, get up and get a snack. Go for a walk. If you smoke, have a cigarette, then quit smoking because it’s gross and unhealthy.
After all this listening, watching, waiting, all this preparation, one night it will come to me: an internal whisper, a thought-music, a lyric instance, and I will try to wrangle it into something sayable, try to coax it out of the depths of consciousness into some manageable form. Sometimes it scares me and I want to leave but I try to stay with it until it has reached some form of completion or until I feel I’ve said everything I needed to say in that moment. Then I walk away and avoid it for several days.
I like to think that procrastination is part of the writing process. Don’t call it procrastination, call it fermentation. Or gestation. Think of it as a running start, even if you are just sitting on your couch in your underwear. But maybe consider putting on some pants and going for a walk.
Michael Julian's work has appeared in HARK Magazine, Empty Mirror, The EEEL, and The Altar Collective. He is an editor for Cyberhex Journal and a reviewer for Portland and San Francisco Book Reviews. He lives in Northern California.