The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

February 3, 2009

I am a lemming, too.

Filed under: not writing,procrastination,Uncategorized,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 20:38

I really never thought I would do this.  Blog.  Just what cyberspace needs — another self-important blogger who thinks the world is interested in what she thinks.  Classic.  But here I am, staring at the screen — as usual — when I should be writing something constructive.  I’m working on a book, you know.  I’d like to get it done by the end of the summer, too.  We’ve been researching it for 17 months now and are just about finished.  I’ve written about 100 pages and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve written.  So, why am I not writing page 101 or page 102?  Or doing that continuous self-editing thing that I love to do and that one is never supposed to do when you’re trying to get your words on a page.  You know what I mean, going back and re-reading everything you’ve written so far and tweaking words and phrases here and there,  fact checking, rearranging — that kind of thing.  That’s the kind of thing that keeps you at 100 pages for months at a time.  I wish I wouldn’t do it.  But I love it.  I think part of the reason I love it is because it reminds me that I can write at times when I’m feeling not so sure that I can.  Which is how I’ve spent too many minutes of my life.  Questioning.  Second-guessing.  Stupid.

I’ve been writing creatively since I was a little southern girl in a poor Spartanburg County elementary school surrounded by kids who couldn’t imagine writing anything they weren’t required to.  I wish I remembered who first indicated to me that what I wrote wasn’t garbage — if there was anyone.  I’d like to both hug and wring the neck of that person.

But I remember as early as the third grade saying I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  I mostly wrote poems then.  And when I moved on to junior high (before it was called “middle school”) and then high school, I always either wrote for or edited the school newspapers and literary magazines.  I think I won my first award in elementary school though.  I think this because I have a tiny bronze (colored) charm, shaped like a miniature scroll, in a box in the attic with the words “READ Magazine” on one side and, if I’m not mistaken, where I placed in the competition (cannot remember this for the life of me) on the other side.  Third grade?  Fifth?  I’m not sure.

In high school I was one of three self-acknowledged poets in my class.  Me, Frederick Tucker and Suzie Something.  I started winning awards freshman year for my poetry.  The University of South Carolina – Spartanburg held an annual literary contest and published the results in a fairly nice literary magazine called “Maggie’s Drawers.”    In the four years I was in high school I placed or won every year.  For poetry.  Which I rarely write anymore.  Me, Arnold Kimmons and Barry Bridwell.  Arnold and Barry were in my future husband Bob’s class — two years ahead of me.  I considered their company validating.


At this point I should mention the things I have done while trying to write this blog entry.

got another Diet Coke

re-stacked the books on my window shelf so the new kitten, Jimmy Carter, wouldn’t knock them over when he climbed over them

409’d my desk

scootched one of my printers over so Zora the cat would have a larger spot to lie on her Heineken towel in the sun

looked out the window into the woods for deer

popped my knuckles

checked my email three times

purposefully stretched

made a list of possible blog topics in one of my new Urban Outfitter’s notebooks — the green one with the cuckoo clocks on it

tried again to get the cuckoo clock we bought in Rothenburg summer before last while researching beer to work

self edited four times

got another Diet Coke and restocked the fridge with more Diet Cokes

noticed that my stomach was growling and tried to ignore it


I didn’t win any writing awards when I was in college because I was in love.  It was much easier to write poetry in high school because of broken hearts and insecurities and general adolescent angst and malaise.  In college I was preparing to be married and then being married.  I wrote for myself only occasionally.

In graduate school I wrote all the time, of course, but rarely for myself.  My mentor, Tom Dietz, sent one of my papers in — can’t remember what it was about — to the Irene B. Tauber competition for Sociology Graduate Students and I won.  That helped me remember the pleasure of accolades for my words.  But I finished my masters, moved back to SC, bought a house, had a baby and began my doctoral work and taught my first adjunct classes in sociology and women’s studies all within the next year.  I wrote constantly about the South and even wrote a chapter for a book my mentor in the history department, Dr. Tom Connelly, was writing about the South.  He died before it was published. 

I had another baby 16 months after the first and decided to stay home and try my hand at freelance writing.  Made the decision in April and had my first piece accepted in a national publication in June.  Took that to be a sign.  For 10 good years I wrote constantly for local magazines as well as national and international women’s and parenting magazines like Family circle, Parents, Parenting, American Baby, Expecting, Woman’s Day, Brides, Southern Living — mostly writing about women’s and children’s health.  I loved it.  Pretty soon I started writing fiction — short stories actually.  And sometimes I finished them. 

My first biggish award came the year we built our house on Muddy Ford — almost 16 years ago now. I had written a story about the night my dad asked my mother to marry him.  It’s better than it sounds.  I entered it into the South Carolina Fiction Project – something I had revered ever since I’d  heard of it – and it won.  The next year I entered another – and it won, too.  Then the powers that be (cliche — pardons) decided that once a person wins, she or he has to skip a year before entering again.  I skipped a year, then won again.  I did that a couple more times until I had won five times.  In the meantime, The Proposal, the story I’d written about my parents, took the Porter Fleming Prize as well as a prize from Rock Hill, and was published in an anthology that Hub City Writers put out and was edited by Janette Turner Hospital.  She had some nice things to say about me, both in the forward to the anthology and in an article on southern writers in which she was quoted.  She grouped me with people like Sue Monk Kidd.  It felt good.  I was writing and raising kids and a pretty happy camper.  Then came the year of death.  I’ll write about that soon. 


In the meantime you should know that while I was writing this I took time to …

snuggle Uncle Joe the kitten

 have a green tea instead of a diet coke


get myself a couple of chunks of cheddar

check my email twice

check Facebook (damn addiction)

pop my knuckles

add to my blog list

check the cuckoo clock – still not working

check for deer

twist my hair into a bun

and self edit again


This is why my blog is called the Reluctant Writer.


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