I recently began writing again after months of merely doing some edits on older works or attempting to wrap up unfinished projects and failing. You know how it is: you get the idea that you can sit and write but once you are there with that notebook and pen or blank screen in front of you, the inspiration sizzles out. Re-reading doesn’t ignite the fire. Things aren’t flowing.
No, this isn’t a metaphor for life. (Though it could be.) This is all part of the lovely writing process. The up-all-night, hair pulling, screaming at a computer screen, locking yourself away process that we all live for. Most of us don’t write because we feel like we have to. For most of us, writing does not pay the bills or bring a sense of calm and balance to our world. We write because we need to. Because a story idea is like an itch on your ankle while you’re at work. You need to scratch it. It won’t stop bothering you. You might have to wait all day or perhaps when you are on a break, but the itch just won’t go away until you take your shoes and socks off, reach down there, and scratch it.
Writers have to scratch that itch. We have to get the story out or it will drive us mad. But sometimes the itch comes and goes, sometimes the voices whisper only parts of a scene, snatches of dialogue. Sometimes we have to wait for the entire story to come together. We may get pieces here and there, but the completed picture of the jigsaw puzzle is still hazy. It may not make sense just yet.
I worked a ton on a book this week that I will publish under my other name. Satisfied (Sort of. I mean, as artists, are we ever really?) and ready to take a break, imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning after having weird dreams and finding myself filled with the need to write some more on a story I hadn’t played with for a while. I had struck out on this story some time ago, convinced it would take me years to get all the pieces together and assembled. But then things just flowed.
I didn’t want things to flow. I wanted a fricking break. My eyes were tired from staring at a screen for hours on end every day. My shoulders and back were like “No! I protest!” Yet, somehow, I sat down and started on it anyway. We all know why. When the story is finally coming together, there is no use trying to stop it. There is no dam that can stem the creative flow. So I got out my boat (a rusty canoe, actually) and rode the waters of my muse. Time flew by and before I knew it, I had a good 3k added to the story. I sat back and thought to myself, You know, that isn’t half bad. I think I might have the next scene, too.
Sometimes things just don’t flow. Sometimes the pieces won’t come together. We can try to force them, but often we merely break the pieces and the overall picture becomes distorted. Sometimes we sit and read over the material, hoping to get through that dry spell, and things do finally come together. Pushing through and forcing yourself to write can work. Other times, the water is flowing, and we want to turn it off, but can’t. We don’t have time, we don’t have the energy.
For me, I’ve decided that if the water is flowing, if the ideas are finally coming and things are making sense, I have to write. I must make the time. I must scratch the itch. I can’t put it off or I know I will regret it on those days when my mind is as dry as a desert.
Two different books in one week? Wow, okay muse. I hear you. Let me grab my boat.