Thursday, January 26, 2012
It's funny what a good night's sleep after a particularly sleepless night will do for a person.
A good friend once told me that she can tell when I'm not okay because then I get really quiet. Considering that A) this friend is very observant and B) she has known me well for many years, I think she's on to something.
As many have said, writers write. It's one thing to think about working on the book, the article or the blog post, but another altogether to have the confidence to put fingers to keys and get those words out there. Life happens. This should not come as a big surprise to any of us, and yet sometimes we scritch our heads and wonder how (insert thing that devours writing mojo) happened. The deadline got closer, BISW is in week number two, we're still on that same chapter, and time is not standing still.
Recognizing that is the first step. After that comes refilling the well. Getting back on the horse. Putting on one's big girl (or boy) panties and getting back in the game. The how, I've found, is different for every person and every instance, so there's no hard and fast rulebook for that, but what I can talk about is a few things that I have reminded myself work for me.
First, know yourself. Over the past year or so, I've come to accept that I am an extrovert. That means, among other things, I often process thought through talking. Lightbulb moment. Understanding this means that when I'm stumped, rather than going around and around and around in my own head, like a car on a rotary that can't find the exit, the best thing to do is corral a writer friend (or a reader friend if writer friends are busy) and start blabbing. Often, the answer I couldn't find no matter how hard I searched for it is right there when someone else asks me the right question. I come away feeling energized and bounce back to the keyboard, notebook or legal pad like Tigger on Red Bull.
Second, your process is okay. There is no one hard and fast rule on how to write. Whatever gets you to the end is what you need, and you should take it. Charge up on it with grabby hands, dig in deep and don't let go. Whatever works for Nora Roberts or Bertrice Small is absolutely the one true and perfect process...if you are Nora Roberts or Bertice Small. If in doubt, check your ID, look in the mirror or ask a family member. No part of your process is stupid. If it works for you, keep doing it. Whatever gets you to The End is what works, and it's none of anybody else's business if you write better wearing bunny slippers, give yourself an M&M after every completed page, or can only think straight if you type first drafts in Comic Sans. I personally write better if my nails are polished. So be it.
Third, mama needs her some strange. This comes from accepting the fact that I am a musical omnivore and no matter how deeply I love my elebenty billion favorite songs I already have on countless playlists, I always need more, more, more. Ditto with nail polish colors; see above note. There's a continual need to keep reaching for some new tool to add to the writer's toolbox, and those tools can come from anywhere; a new TV show to obsess over and let it plan its roots in the writerly subconscious, sticking one's toe into a new hobby, trying a new genre or subgenre to write or read, even sampling a treat heretofore undiscovered that sits on the shelf, crooking its finger and casting the come-hither look. Today, that's Elvis Costello's Poor Fractured Atlas album. Said album came out in 2001, but it's new to me, and with a title like that, how could I resist? New stuff in, new stuff out. It works.
My mother used to say "the more you do, the more you'll want to do," and she was right. What we're doing here, as writers, isn't the same as data entry or moving beads on an abacus. We're creating lives and relationships in our story worlds, and we know how to do that. It's what we did when the stories formed in an amorphous glob in the backs of our heads while we scooped out the litterbox or desperately wished for a way to get through an endless work meeting. These are the voices that live in our heads and won't shut up, demanding their stories be told. Since nobody else can tell my stories, my way, I need to get busy and fill my well with what's good for me and set off on the route I know that takes me and my characters to happily ever after. Which means a fresh coat of polish on my nails, the latest musical discovery on my headphones, and me at the keyboard, unquiet. Are you with me?