Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Rhythm of Writing

I am contemplative lately. Busy, hurried, worried, and feeling slightly guilty about not getting much writing done. But only slightly guilty. Between the end of summer chores, weddings, anniversaries, and small and large crises with human and animal loved ones and other important things happening lately, I have not worked on my new manuscript in more than a month. But where I once might have beaten myself up about this, heaped more guilt on my overburdened psyche, I now take a deep breath and say "this, too, shall pass." For me, it is learning the rhythm of writing.

If we take all the advice about writing to heart, we should set aside time each day to write, even if it means getting up earlier or staying up later to do it. We should keep ourselves in the regular habit of writing, we should work on writing exercises, we should make ourselves write. Should, should, should. That word itself is guilt inducing, and I try to ban it from my vocabulary. I sometimes give myself permission to not write.

As time passes, I've learned more about myself and the writing process. I've learned that manuscripts are not necessarily linear things. With more power to those folks gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I have put aside manuscripts for months, only to come back to them fresh, with a new way of looking at the world - perhaps the right person met, the right circumstance - lending another plot line, or a way around a nagging problem. Confident of this unusual way of finishing a manuscript, I now see a pattern that works for me.

I love being outside, and as summer turns to fall, and we have only a handful of nice days left to enjoy being outside, I relish them while I can. I know there will be many stormy, raining, cold and yucky weather days to come. Days when I will linger for hours over the keyboard with my third (or fourth or seventh) cup of coffee, trying to get my words to convey exactly what I want to say - looking for that magical phrase or brilliant sentence. Knowing those days are coming, I give myself permission to take a short break from my manuscript now - to linger, instead, in the warm rays of the sun, to wear shorts and run barefoot while I still can, to pull that last weed or walk the dog or ride my horse through the changing colors of the autumn leaves. Although an unseasonable ninety degrees is predicted for today, the first day of fall, there is a nip in the evening air, and winter will be hard on its heels, bringing with it plenty of time to write.

So I've learned that this time away from my manuscript (down time, so to speak) is never a total waste. For a creative person, time 'not writing' is time spent contemplating, percolating, mashing things around in the unknown recesses of the brain until they sometimes miraculously appear as sentences and plot lines that weave and mesh themselves almost seamlessly from fingers to keyboard at some later date.

So if I'm contemplative on one of these last warm days, I know my manuscript is still there, not too far away, lingering in the back of my mind. It's being worked on, even if not in a conscious manner.

And hopefully, when the temperature dips into the 30's, when the first big storm blows in from the Pacific, I will happily pour myself a steaming hot mug of coffee, snuggle into my desk chair, open my document, and find brilliant words and plot lines, waiting to be set down on paper. Wish me luck.


Monica Vavra said...

Aw, lovely post Linda. And so true!

What I write tends to reflect my state of mind. So time away, for me, is as important as writing time.

And what better place to have downtime than outside? I'm off to the nature preserve with my dog right now. :)

Joanna said...

I didn't know you gals knew each other! Good match up too--two animal lovers :)

This is a great post, Linda. Your writing is always there--and don't feel guilty, even a little bit!