“If you’re writing, you’re a writer,” Anne Lamott tweeted a few weeks ago. “Write badly, daily; it’s creating beads for a necklace.”* I read this on my cell phone while sitting in the driver’s seat of the van, idling, waiting for my daughters to step out of the main doors of their high school, cross the parking lot and hop into the back seat.
Her encouraging tweet gave me an idea. No, not to sit down and write, but to drive to the nearest Dollar Store and buy a bunch of beads: a truly inspired level of writerly procrastination. I’ve written almost one hundred posts on this blog, and another twenty-odd on Warrior Girl. Sure, that’s not a lot compared to established bloggers, but it is still a path worn by my own feet. What better way to see how far I’ve come than to have a length of beads hanging within view of my desk?
More junk, a voice in my head says. Like you need more junk.
I ignore the voice and drive to the store. I march to the craft aisle where I find glass beads by pound: marble-sized and speckled, smooth-textured and oblongs, jewel-toned, indigo, scarlet, amber and jet-black. All shapes, sizes, colours, textures and patterns, and all neatly packaged in little bags stapled closed with cardboard tops. As I finger the packages, a sickly feeling of something like guilt crashes over me. More junk. Probably made from some cheap, toxic material in a third world country.
I put the beads down.
I remember standing outside a local big-box home decor store, a month or so ago, leaning against my van and chatting with a fifty-ish woman in a long skirt. We were both waiting outside the big double-doors for our purchases to be brought out and loaded into our waiting vehicles. She was beating herself up for buying a single rug that she later figured was made in Bangladesh by sweatshop workers making pennies a day.
“I have a rule that I don’t buy that kind of product, and yet here I am, with this rug,” she said. “It is too easy to do.”
I fidgeted a little, knowing that the gangly young clerk was soon going to appear with not one, but two full shopping carts for me: stacks of bath mats and towels tied with ribbon, wooden bins and baskets painted a distressed mint green. An ivory-coloured metallic bird. Truth is, where the stuff was made hadn’t even crossed my mind. It does now.
I pick up the beads again, inspect the labels. Made in India, imported and packaged by some company in Eastern Canada. I stare at them for a moment, not sure what to make of this information. At least there is no long list of ingredients to decipher. I sigh, close my eyes and remember my mission: a colourful, visual reminder of how much I’ve written, how far I’ve come. I choose a dozen or so packages and a big spool of clear stretchy cording, drop them in my basket and walk to the cash register. As the cashier tallies up my purchases, I feel as though I have committed an important act of faith in myself and, at the same time, failed humanity.
And I keep writing.
Now, a basketful of glass beads sits to my left as I type this post. To my right, hanging from the handle of the dining room buffet, there are two strings of purple-and-brown glass beads, almost one-hundred strong. When I hit ‘publish’ on this post, I`ll reach to my left, choose a pretty, new bead and add it to the length of cord. It’s not perfect, but for today, it’s the best I’ve got.
* the original Tweet in its full 139 character form: “If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Ignore your narcissism & bad self-esteem. Write a graf badly, daily: it’s creating beads for a necklace” Anne Lamott by Twitter May 12, 2012