Lately I’ve experienced a few quiet moments of happiness and relief. I’ve still got my writing mojo. It’s in there somewhere, peeking out at me more and more. You may be thinking: But you have a novel coming out in March, how can your writing mojo be an issue?
It goes like this: I wrote KILMOON before the downturn in 2008. Around 2008 I started to flounder in life and in writing. I’d start new projects and not complete them. I’d experiment with new genres (women’s fiction, science fiction, and thriller) and lose interest. I stopped blogging too. I felt like I had nothing to say. I polished Kilmoon through these years and tried, tried, tried to get it published. But this didn’t count as a writing practice because I was so inconsistent.
So here I am, relearning how I am as a writer. Everything I thought I’d lost, I’d only misplaced. Here’s what I’m relearning:
1. Even when I’m NOT going to write, I can write. Last week I mentioned Ghost Story Weekend. I almost didn’t go. In fact, I did turn tail back home before rallying myself. Still, my heart wasn’t in it, and when I finally arrived at the retreat I told the other writers I wasn’t going to write anything. I’d be the first in the retreat’s history to not write a story. I was OK with that. But then, somehow, I did write a flash fiction piece — a good bit of writing according to the others. I’d accomplished this while I wasn’t really writing. I was fooling around. And maybe that was key.
LESSON: Consider what you’re doing playing around on the page. Take the pressure off. Whatever you do write, you can revise later.
2. I have lots of words inside me even when I think I’ve got nothing. At The Debutante Ball, I’ve been writing a blog post every Friday. Each week, I’m forced to write whether I’ve got a bright idea or not. Most of the time I don’t arrive with bright ideas. Most of the time I have no clue, and the little don’t-wanna gremlin that I wrote about yesterday (here — check out my bonus tip, hehe) just doesn’t wanna write a blog post. Today is a prime example. This post is forming as I write, and once I revise it, it will be just fine. I can transfer this lesson in verbal fecundity straight to my fiction.
LESSON: Ye of little faith, trust that the words will come if you’d just get started.
3. I am still capable of going deep. There’s a book — too bad I don’t remember its title — about our fast-paced, social media’d, low-attention-spanned world. Jumping from this to that, thinking we’re so great because we’re multitasking? Yeah, not so great. We end up skimming the surface of our lives, and after awhile we get out practice with going deep. Depth is where creativity and innovation reside. For the last few years I’ve been existing on the surface, and my writing has suffered.
Yesterday I sat in the library munging a plot problem. I sat with it, brain twitching and jumpy. I even succumbed to Facebook a couple of times. Mostly I jotted notes and stared out the window. It took a solid hour for my jumpy, skimming-the-surface brain to get quiet. In this state, the solution to my plot problem arrived, and it wasn’t until later that I realized how miraculous this was and how much I’ve missed depth.
LESSON: Get quiet and stare out windows. Keep it slow by jotting by hand rather than by keyboard.
I may just be finding my way again, and I’m quietly happy. (Addendum: Whining is still part of my process. There’s a place for that too.)