Amy called it "chair glue." My dad called it sitzfleisch. As in, "you need to develop some sitzfleisch."
My mother is an artist and in addition to paid work and parenting and gardening, she closeted herself away weaving, then working on jewelry, learning new techniques, producing beautiful pieces. She had -- has -- sitzfleisch, which translates literally as sit-flesh, and figuratively as the ability sit for hours doing one thing when you really could be up and about doing a million others. I don't know what I was not doing at the time, but the poor man -- who himself finds spare time to make furniture and take gorgeous photographs -- got quite frustrated and told me what I needed most was, yes, sitzfleisch.
Fast forward twenty or thirty years. I did manage to accumulate sit-flesh, of both the literal and figurative varieties. The latter I discovered somewhat in college, and honed in my early professional years. I have spent decades of hours in front of my computer writing speeches, press releases, making phone calls, organizing.
What took me so long to apply the sitzfleisch to creative writing? I have written fiction and poetry since I was seven or so. I never really thought it was a career choice. Like millions of others who put away guitars, leotards, pottery wheels, baseball bats and yes, pens, when faced with the Big World, maybe I didn't give myself credit. Sure, I told myself I was good enough to pay the bills with writing, but I couldn't quite let go of the corporate safety net. I told myself the ideas that bubbled up weekends and evenings (and during long meetings) were "just for fun."
Three or so years ago, after being hounded yet again by a set of characters and plot ideas, I decided to get them all out. Really out, on paper, and most important, all of them and all of it. I found a writers' group, which helped me begin to set deadlines. I learned a great deal, the group shifted, and it got serious. So did I. I put away the drawer novel, for many good reasons, and started another story. Finished that story, am revising that story. Like my parents, I (finally!) make time, between it all, for my art, closeting myself away. I make better, conscious choices on how to spend my time, take writing seriously, work to make it part of my Big World. I proudly expand my back-end, month by month, year by year, adding layers of lovely sitzfleisch.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007