my idea

I can’t sleep.  It’s 12:30 a.m., and I’m still awake.  This is really and truly a problem, because my little son has decided that he needs to wake up at dawn each day, with bright eyes to match my bleary ones and a cheerful smile to match my sleepy one.  5:30 is fewer than five short hours away.  Tomorrow I won’t be able to write a complete sentence, so if I’m going to write, I should do it now.

And I must write.  Now.  I’ve been lying in bed tossing back and forth, tangling my already tangled sheets, trying to calm my furiously racing mind.  The source of my insomnia?

An Idea.  A big one.

First of all, I have a confession to make.  It’s a dream, really, but as I tell you this dream I hesitate, as if my fingers were about to type out a statement of shameful confession rather than a declaration of a dream.  If it were not the middle of the night I probably wouldn’t tell you.  It seems that I can confess things in the middle of the night that, cloaked in darkness, seem much easier to say than when I am typing the words with bright, exposing sunlight streaming into the room.  So, here’s my confession, my dream:

Someday I’d like to be a writer. 

Oh dear.  I said it.  Immediately I desire to retreat.  The demon of bald insecurity raises its ugly, foul head and curses me with terrifying fears.  I smell the sickening sulfur of these fears: the fear of failure; the fear of incompetence; the fear that you, dear reader, are at this moment laughing at me or rolling your eyes or hitting the back button on your browser to find someone with something ever so much more interesting to say. 

Lately, I’ve felt the itch to write.  I’ve always suffered from this itch, but rather than scratching the itch (i.e., writing) I often rub some sort of numbing cream on the itch instead.  Instead of allowing myself the luxury of a good, long scratch (OK, I realize I’m carrying this metaphor a bit too far, but it’s too late for me to go back now), I tell myself I’m too busy, too untalented, too raw, too jaded, too shallow, too deep, too whatever, and then I slather onto this itch the equivalent of a prescription-strength hydrocortisone cream.  “Ahhhhhhh,” I sigh with relief as I anesthetize the itch, and then, without the distraction of that dang itch, I move on to my tasks.  My dutiful self scribbles out a Things to Do list instead of an essay and starts plowing through those chores with Type A abandon (that’s sort of a joke–do Type A’s really do much of anything with unmitigated abandon?). 

Here’s what’s happening, though: I think I’m developing a resistance to this itch-numbing drug.  More and more I find myself composing essays in my head while I cook dinner or hang laundry on the line or mop my floors.  I find myself tempted to drop whatever I’m doing, sneak out my journal, and just write.  Usually, the anti-itch drug works long enough for me to lose inspiration, but sometimes, I succumb.  Like now, for example. 

I said I was going to tell you my Idea, and obviously I got distracted on that rabbit trail known as “a long extended metaphor that doesn’t work quite right but I’m not sure how to get out of it so I just keep blindly plowing ahead and I’ll really shake my head and regret this when I re-read it in the morning.”  Go ahead and look that specific definition up in your Dictionary of Literary Terms.  I’m pretty sure it’s there somewhere. 

I’m stalling, aren’t I?

So, here it is: (Of course, I’m not going to tell you quite yet.  I must preface my long preface leading to my Idea with yet another preface.  Wouldn’t a writing teacher have great fun with her red pen on this middle of the night ramble?!)  I like the idea of doing some “thing” for a year and then writing about it as I go.  Here are some examples:  I recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which chronicles her family’s valiant (and quite delicious) attempt to eat locally for a year.  Then there’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia, which is Elizabeth Gilbert’s incredibly well-written “travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery” (I just stole that last phrase from Publishers Weekly‘s review of the book).  Personally, I derived an awful lot of delicious pleasure from Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.  While not published, Carrie is spending from Easter of ’07 to Easter of ’08 working on developing a new spiritual discipline each month.  I have loved traveling with her through this spiritual journey, and I personally think she should develop this idea and publish a book of her own.  🙂 

ANYWAY………so here’s my year-long idea:


I’m terrible at pleasure.  Pleasure wracks me with guilt.  Whether it’s a delicious meal, an extraordinary book, or a tantalizing piece of chocolate, I am absolutely wretched at allowing myself to be immersed in the pleasure of the experience.  So what if I spent a year exploring a different pleasure each month and then writing about it?  If nothing else, it will be good for me.  And if the pursuit of pleasure becomes a “duty,” I just might let myself enjoy it.  🙂 

I just typed out some of my ideas, but then I deleted them.  Maybe I’ll post them tomorrow, but part of me kind of wants to hear from you.  What sort of pleasures do you think I should pursue?  I will post one idea, though, just to give you an idea of where I’m headed with this.  Let’s take the idea of chocolate.  Wouldn’t it just be horrible to spend a month tasting my way through such a pleasure?  I can see it now: a friend whom I haven’t seen in awhile walks into my home.  I let her in the door and wave absently at the mess of chocolate wrappers littering every room.  She looks at me and gasps.  “Are you pregnant?” she asks, as she eyes my noticeably fluffy belly.  “Oh no,” I will respond, happily patting my expanding mid-section.  “I’ve just been doing a lot of research.”  And then I will smile at her and lick the delicious remains of that day’s research off of my lips. 

Seriously, though.  Running with the chocolate example, I could break away from the candy aisle at Dillons and explore quaint little chocolate shops, slip into a booth at a fancy restaurant merely to sample its famous chocolate dessert, and purchase chocolate samples on-line from chocolatiers in far away places.  (Um, this little writing experiment might get a little expensive if I’m not careful!)  And then I could write about the chocolate: about my journey to find the chocolate, to eat the chocolate, to become one with the chocolate (just kidding on that last one).Do you think this might work?  Maybe you shouldn’t tell me what you think, because then I might lose my courage.  I like the idea.  I think that, if nothing else, it could be fun.  I could at least stretch and grow and become a person who allows herself two things she so often denies herself: the freedom to write and the freedom to taste, touch, and experience pleasure. It is ever so late now.  In the morning I will probably read this post and cringe at my reckless bravery in posting.  Just to be safe, I’ve saved my rambles as a Word document just in case I decide to hastily retreat and hit the “delete” button in the morning.   But for now, I must go eat a piece of chocolate before finally collapsing into bed….


14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by karmenl on September 23, 2007 at 3:48 am

    Well, it looks like we missed each other by about 3 and a half hours. I woke up at 4:00am and decided to take a look around a few blogs after watching a little TV. I don’t know why I can’t sleep, but if you should delete your post in the morning (wait…it is morning…ok, the next time you read), at least I was the lucky one who got to read it . My missed sleep wasn’t all for nothing.

    You truly are an amazing writer. I think you should take the leap. I’ve been trying to think of other pleasures, and to be honest, it’s been difficult to get past chocolate. My brain struggles when it comes to creativity. You could write a book on the entire topic of chocolate in my opinion and it would be delicious…I mean great!

    I am really the last person to give suggestions on anything literary. All I want to do is encourage you. Whatever direction you choose to go in will be worth the read. Have you ever read Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird? I started to, but since I’m not a writer, stopped. I’m guessing you’ve probably already read it…you mentioned that you really liked her.

    Ok….I guess I’m out of things to say. My thoughts take forever to get out. I will look forward to reading about your decision making process.


  2. Posted by mychiaroscuro on September 23, 2007 at 7:23 am

    I didn’t get to sleep last night until after 3:00. Ugh. Then, Jack woke up at 6:30 (at least he “slept in” an hour!). I fear for my sanity today, though. I don’t do well after being tortured with sleep-deprivation.
    I re-read my post this morning, and while my idea seemed like such a good one then, in the light of day I see the idea’s (and my own) gaps and indequacies. Now I’m plagued with how it just won’t work, how I just won’t work. I still want to try, though. I think.


  3. Posted by megan marie on September 23, 2007 at 10:14 am

    “the unexamined life is not worth living.” – socrates

    that’s my response. do it. and feel centuries of support coming from really wise writers…

    well, that, and i hope i’m the friend that comes to visit and you’re cooking up all kinds of chocolate.:)


  4. Posted by kelly on September 23, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Oh Jill, if I had only a bit of that writing talent that you have. One thing I have learned through my pitiful attempts at blogging this year, I am a lousy writer. You my dear friend are not!
    My thoughts on your year of pleasure were mostly food/drink ideas: coffees, teas, wines, or cheeses.

    However I have recently started a book titled “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” by John Piper. Here’s what the back of the book says:

    The Pursuit of pleasure is not optional. It is essential. Scripture reveals that the great business of life to to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. I this paradigm-shattering work, John Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn’t truly exist: Delight is our duty.


  5. Posted by kelly on September 23, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Whoops, somehow I hit submit.

    My suggestion is try a month finding pleasure and delight in God. Maybe use this book as a beginning point . . . however I find John Piper quite reflective and I can’t fly through his works, so this pleasure may require more than a month!


  6. Posted by matt on September 23, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    of course, i think it’s a wonderful idea…especially the chapter/month on sex. there’s going to be chapter on sex, right? : )


  7. Oooh, I agree with all the suggestions for pleasure so far! I love the idea of focusing on all different kinds of pleasure. I think it makes God happy when we simply enjoy something. Truly delighting in something almost always leads me into praising him (Wow, God, you’re so good to have created something so delightful!), and that is really the main thing. Since I’m so self-centered, I can only offer suggestions that would be pleasurable for me, but maybe these ideas are worth something (these would be my top choices): chocolate, vegetables, wines, music (playing or listening, with nothing to distract), dancing, cooking new things, poetry (reading or writing). . .
    Which leads to my next comment: Yes, write! Give yourself the time to do it! Stop letting list-writing anesthetize you! You are a wonderful writer! I love the control you have over your words, the variety and cadence of your sentences, your (sometimes funny) metaphors (like the itch/scratch one 😉 ).


  8. If I were to experiment with a year of pleasure, I’d want to experience the pleasures of sex, nature (I’m picturing myself lying on my back in the grass, feeling the sunshine), music, water, paper and writing utensils, reading, and cream-based desserts. Wonderful idea, Jill! I’d love to read all that you write about it.

    This summer, we and some friends sampled all the best barbeque in Kansas City. We made stops at, I think, five restaurants. I learned that in enjoying the best of something, you also run into the unpleasurable parts of it. But I think it’s worth it.

    What I’m finding out in my year of spiritual disciplines is that one month goes by very quickly, and there are distractions all the time. Sometimes my experiment seems like a big fraud. I fear that writing a book about it would seem like a big fraud, too, but for now, I’ll try to bask in the pleasure of your compliment. 🙂


  9. Carrie, I’m glad you were brave enough to mention the s-word. I had to write a private email about it. 😉


  10. Posted by mychiaroscuro on September 24, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Wow. Thanks to all of your for your amazing, incredible, unbelievable encouragement. I love your ideas, too! I journaled a list last night, and I’ll post it soon.
    Today I’m a bit distracted. My grandma is in the hospital. I love her dearly. More than dearly. I love her….I can’t even think of a word deep and true enough to describe how much. Please pray for her. And my grandpa. I’ve never known a couple more in love.


  11. Posted by Cristy on September 24, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    I love to read your blog! I happen to know many people I consider very good writers, and you are one of the top. I’m not much of a reader of fine literature/novels…mostly just blogs, online stuff. But I’d love to follow the journey! Don’t disappoint your faithful audience 😉


  12. Posted by chill24 on September 25, 2007 at 11:00 am

    great writer = you. glad i found you, i seem to be slower than most oh well – i’ve made it this far in life.
    i’m sorry about your grandma, we will be praying.
    btw – glad i can finally comment on your blog!! at least, if you is who i think you is. 🙂


  13. Posted by matt on September 26, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    i’ve been thinking about what i would do if I were you. If I were to do a month on different pleasures I’d pick: water (different pleasures with water), quiet (a month devoted to quiet things), loud ( a month devoted to fun loud things), poetry (writing and reading), painting, nudity (both being exposed and seeing the exposed), my back yard (this would be nature but i had to think of a way to make it more reasonable and something i could enjoy every day) , MEDITATION, punk rock (that’d be a fun month!), chocolate, exercise (following chocolate month), friends (a month devoted to simply finding and fulfilling friends), GARLIC, giving ( a month devoted to just giving away as much as you could possibly afford/muster)…and I’d probably pick a month of sensuality. WOW! THAT SOUNDS FUN! Sign me up!


  14. Posted by matt on September 26, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    and dancing! I forgot dancing! YEAH!


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