Tag Archives: reflection

Finding Momentum When It’s Gone

I work on one big project at a time. The art of juggling two or three big projects at once is lost on me, as all the projects start to blend together in a weird, self-referencing word-soup. That means my writing process is a one-step-at-a-time deal. For a few weeks, I will do nothing but planning, plotting, and outlining. Then, for a few months, all I’m doing is writing. And then for up to year after that, I’m editing.

After I’ve been editing my work for so long, I’m often intimidated when I think of going back to writing. I’m worried I haven’t learned anything, or that I won’t apply what I’ve learned when I edited. I’m worried the flow and creativity has been stilted by too much editing work. I’m afraid I’ve lost my voice. I’m concerned I’m too focused on what will sell instead of what it is I’ve got to say.

It’s taken some time for me to learn how to get back into writing after time away. The “just sit down and write” advice doesn’t always cut it. You can plan your time down to the minute and regiment yourself to your schedule, and that works for a lot of people. Most people. But that doesn’t take care of the lack of confidence or the worries, and making myself sit in a chair and stare at a screen doesn’t help me find the heart of why I’m writing.

Over the years, I’ve learned the painful lesson that inspiration is incredibly important to my writing and my creative identity. It is true that, many times, you’ll have to write when the muse isn’t slinking around your shoulders and whispering in your ear. However, I think it’s easy to become distracted working that way – distracted from your core, from the reason you wanted to write in the first place. Viewing writing as a job, as work, is allowing it one step closer to becoming your job instead of your vocation, and divorcing it from passion altogether. In the day to day, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia. I’ve found it’s vital to be able to stop and ask myself what I’m looking to accomplish with the project in the first place. What am I trying to communicate?

Those answers don’t always come immediately. I often have to search for them. This is how:

  1. Journal
  2. Go to a natural history museum or cultural center
  3. Watch a documentary or two about subjects that I know very little about.
  4. Go for a hike/ go camping. Don’t allow myself my phone or any digital tethers
  5. Allow myself to daydream. Allow myself to forget my schedule and my to-do list
  6. Use my hands to make. Bake. Work on a motorcycle. Throw a pot on a wheel. Learn glassblowing. Draw. Make. Learn. Do. And let the mind wander

*Bring journal or a notebook when doing 2-6

These things have helped me focus back on my voice, consider my point of view, helped me remember what is important, and reminded me of our connection points as humans and therefore what we can all relate to on a primal and emotional level. I find allowing my mind to wander on these subjects through art, journaling, and being a student of life and nature itself helps focus my mind and prepare it for creativity and communication.

I mean, I get it. I sound like a neo-hippy. Check that language, man. Connection, point of view, creation, daydream, communication. All I’m missing are some essential oils to drip all over this blog post and some vegan gluten-free cookies for you, my awesome readers.

I acknowledge that most people can just put ass-in-seat and write, treating it like a job. Set a timer. Schedule writing time. Have strict daily, weekly, and monthly goals. These are all fantastic strategies to get you back on track with writing after a long break.

But if you happen to be somewhat like me, you need reflection. You need to ask yourself questions about not only your story, but why you’re writing it. And then you need time to think through the answers. Our culture has made it easy to become very busy very fast – to work through a to-do list everyday, go to bed, wake up, and repeat. But if you’re finding that you need less structure, more time – prioritize that. Prioritize time. Loosen your daily schedule. Allow four hours of writing time instead of two, knowing that some of those four hours may be you taking a walk, sitting outside, listening to music, thinking. Sometimes a few of those all at once. I think you’ll be surprised to find how much inspiration follows you on those walks and mind-walks, and soon, you’ll be back in your seat and writing, refreshed, collected, and ready.

Solitude – A Lonely Gift

Imagine being alone in a cabin, writing without being disturbed by anyone and without a cell phone or internet.  The basics are there – plumbing, electricity and a land-line phone for emergencies. The cabin is as cozy warm as the ability to lake 2010 087remember to stoke the old wood stove. Sitting in the comfiest recliner, laptop propped on the lap, flying fingers blurt out vivid scenes. You write, you sleep, you go for the occasional walk to clear your head or to work out a problem and then you begin again. Word count rises and spirit soars.

This was the greatest gift I ever gave myself – a whole month of writing, thinking and sleeping. Beyond the accomplishment of a story told, it transformed my understanding of what I need to be a writer.

We try to balance our writing life with our everyday lives which includes work, family, friends and fun in our marvelous technological society. These things are important yet equally important is the need for time to think, create and write. So we plan and eek out snippets of writing time – an hour here, an hour there, a workshop here and a two day retreat there – and we write. Yet, as important as those snippets of time are, they are not solitude for solitude is immersion without expectation of interruption or immediate cessation.

Solitude provides the luxury to explore, think and integrate. Sometimes it isn’t the word count that’s required but the ability to think, brainstorm and plot without distraction. The balance now is that I create opportunities for solitude (even if it’s half a day) and the results of being centered, free-flowing creativity and the calm from problems solved spill into those precious snippets of writing time.lake 2010 041

On that month-long journey of solitude, I discovered that in order to achieve solitude I must walk down the path of desperate loneliness where there are no people, no events, no media – nothing exists but me and my thoughts.  Junk-noise and junk-thought withdrawal can be a painful albeit rewarding experience. Now I make a conscientious effort to shut out the junk-noise and junk-thought. Yes, people aren’t happy when I don’t respond to texts or phone calls for hours but they aren’t writing my stories and the unplanned interactions dissolve the state of mind I need to be in.

I never wrote so much so quickly and I never slept as much before! The experience made me aware how exhausting the creative process is. After writing for hours, I’d inhale some food and collapse into a stone-dead nine hour sleep and then do it all over again. So sometimes when I’m reluctant to write it’s because I know I don’t have the energy it takes to be fully engaged nor do I have the time to allow the grey cells to warm up to enough to integrate ideas before creating a coherent symphony of words. Now, I’m a little more forgiving of myself in those moments and I work hard to make sure the time and the energy I need are there.

Solitude allows the brain to become more sensitive to the emotional tenor of words, to the rhythms of not only speech but of story pacing – it’s the crescendo and denouement of action and reaction, heightened and relaxed emotion, the interaction of protagonist and antagonist, the prose of world building mingling with characters experiencing the dynamics of the world. Having an extended experience of the rhythm of words, images and scenes, and having done it long enough to integrate it, I go back into that state when I write. For me, it’s meditation through writing.

lake 2010 061I always thought that solitude was the ideal writing state and had dreamed of being sequestered in a cabin writing forever. Not anymore. Surrounding ourselves with family and friends, experiencing life, those are the things that are fodder for our creative selves. We are creatures of the pack and loneliness in the extreme can as easily erode our ability to write as can the distractions. Balancing solitude and writing with family and friends – that’s what I need. I’ll take my month of solitude again and I’ll keep finding small blocks of it in the meantime. But, I’ll also cherish my time with family and friends for solitude works best when we have something to leave and go back to again!

Happy writing!